With Cienega in danger of having its boys volleyball program cut, Bobcats girls coach Heather Mott stepped up to save the day.
New to the boys game and with few returners, Mott knew she needed to find some athletes to round out her roster. That’s when she found senior Louis Murphy, who has emerged as the state’s leading blocker.
The 6-foot-3-inch Murphy, whose father is a master sergeant in the Air Force, is a transfer from Misawa, Japan.
He showed up to volleyball practice with a passion for competition and a chip on his shoulder after being buried on the bench in basketball and having a wrist injury cut short his first football season at Cienega.
“Back in Japan, this year was supposed to be my year,” Murphy said. “We were expected to win a lot, and I was supposed to be successful. Here they didn’t give me a chance, but now I have something to play for.”
A standout four-sport athlete during his time at Edgren High School overseas, Murphy is one of a handful of players on the team with no volleyball experience.
“I don’t even know if he’s ever played in P.E.,” Mott said. “The first couple of days, it was important to me that he was having fun. He just got better and better and better so fast.”
Fielding at least half a team of players new to the sport hasn’t stopped the Bobcats from getting off to a strong start and reaching the finals of last week’s TUSD Invitational.
“They have so much potential,” Mott said. “We are sitting on a treasure trove of size and potential that could be ridiculous if we handle it gently and get it going in the right direction.”
For his efforts over the weekend and his “knack for the net,” as Mott calls it, Murphy was named team captain heading into this weekend’s 16-school Falcon Invitational at Catalina Foothills High School.
“In the post in basketball, you have to jump to get the ball,” Murphy said. “In volleyball, you jump to block the ball.
“Blocking just came natural for me.”
Murphy took the state lead in blocks on Tuesday night, recording six against Pueblo, to give him 1.9 per set this year. Murphy’s 40 blocks are two more than his teammate, 6-foot-1-inch middle blocker Ty Schlagel.
“It doesn’t matter if they are playing ping pong or checkers with my 6-year-old son,” Mott said, “they are out there to kill somebody, and that makes up for a lot on the volleyball court.”