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Former Gators standout Kelly Murphy, No. 15, earned MVP honors for Team USA last weekend in Omaha, Neb.

Thursday September 26, 2013Murphy Delivers In Clutch, And No, She Isn't Tyler


Former Gators standout Kelly Murphy, No. 15, earned MVP honors for Team USA last weekend in Omaha, Neb.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – She was watching the game in Omaha, Neb., waiting to take the court later in the evening.

He was on Florida Field throwing his first passes as the Gators’ new quarterback.

In a tense moment for Tyler Murphy, Kelly Murphy added her own slice of humor to what was taking place at The Swamp.

I was given Tyler Murphy’s GatorID on accident once at OSL [Office of Student Life]. I guess I see the resemblance,’’ Kelly tweeted Saturday afternoon.

You could say last weekend was a big one around UF’s campus for the Murphy surname.

While Tyler garnered headlines for his role in leading the Gators to a win over Tennessee after starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was injured, Kelly carved out an equally impressive performance at Omaha’s Ralston Arena.

The former Gators volleyball All-American earned MVP honors for the U.S. National Team as the Americans downed the Dominican Republic on Saturday night to capture gold in the NORCECA Continental Championship. Murphy’s break-out tournament helped the U.S. qualify for the FIVB Grand Champions Cup in Japan in November.

Since completing her UF career in 2011, Murphy has worked toward finishing her degree when not playing professionally in Puerto Rico.

However, earlier this year she got a call from Team USA. First-year U.S. coach Karch Kiraly, the American volleyball legend and three-time Olympic gold medalist, took over last fall and began to rebuild the squad.

Murphy was one of the players on his radar. It didn’t take her long to say yes when asked to attend the team’s training camp in May in Anaheim, Calif.

“The goal has always been to play for USA volleyball,’’ said Murphy, who returned to Gainesville this week for some down time. “Everything just kind of happened from there.”

In the four-set victory over the Dominican Republic, Murphy led the U.S. team with 15 kills. In the second set, Murphy reeled off four consecutive service points, including an ace, to help the Americans take control and go up 2-0 in the match.

Murphy’s most meaningful performance since joining the team is one she hopes catapults her to a bigger role. The dream is to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“Over the next three years that’s the end goal,’’ said Murphy, who turns 24 next month. “Every year there are different tournaments for USA, and so this is just working to make the next roster for the next tournament coming up.”

Murphy plans to hang in Gainesville for a while until it’s time to start preparing for the FIVB Grand Champions Cup, which begins Nov. 12 in Nagoya and Tokyo.

Murphy has already gained invaluable international experience since earning a roster spot this summer.

Her passport is stamped full.

She has played with Team USA in tournaments in Peru, Japan, Serbia and Brazil. The trip to Omaha was like a bike ride down the street.

“We were gone the entire month of August,’’ she said. “That was definitely a new thing. It was pretty cool. I just haven’t ever gotten a lot of opportunities [with Team USA]. This was the first summer that I was on the team and to be able to even have the opportunity to play significant time like that, I was really happy with that.”

A 6-foot-2 opposite hitter, Murphy finished her Florida career as one of the most decorated players in the program’s history. She was named National Freshman of the Year in 2008 and by the time she finished, Murphy ranked seventh in school history in sets played (447), eighth in kills (1,306), 10th in aces (126) and 10th in points (1,567.5).

She has also adjusted to the fast-paced tempo Kiraly has implemented.

“One of our big focal points for the start of a new four-year Olympic cycle is playing with a lot of speed,” Kiraly told the Omaha World-Herald last week. “We feel like we can play faster and cleaner than just about anybody out there. And when we play with speed, we can create space that can be taken advantage of.”

Murphy said training with and playing against the world’s top players has taken her game to a new level.

“I think this summer I improved a lot, just being in the gym with USA,’’ she said. “We play a lot faster than I’ve ever played before, and so I feel like I’ve had to get faster at everything I do. Also, just playing against all these different styles from all over the world. I think I have really benefited a lot from that.”

Murphy isn’t the first UF player to spend time with the U.S. National Team. Jenny Whitehead was on the team in 2001, Jane Collymore and Angie McGinnis played for the U.S. from 2005-09, and Marcie Hampton spent 2007 on the squad.

However, Murphy could become the first Florida player to make the U.S. Olympic Team if she continues to play the way she did in Omaha.

That’s down the road. For now Murphy has her eyes on the trip to Japan and then potentially restarting her professional career in January.

“I knew that I wanted to continue playing volleyball,’’ she said of her goal after finishing at UF. “I haven’t signed with a [pro] team yet. I’m kind of just taking some time off now and will play the tournament in November. I’m waiting to see what options come up and hopefully can find somewhere to go in January.”

Until then she will spend time in Gainesville and maybe even take in a game featuring that other well-known Murphy.


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