Building confidence serves as missing piece for success

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Photo by Collin Nawrocki

Carsen Murray (12) goes up for a kill in Marquette’s 0-3 loss to No. 8 University of Kentucky Sept. 11.

A season after playing in just 11 sets, Carsen Murray has made a big jump and is making her presence felt early in her second season with the Golden Eagles.

(The coaching staff) knew she was getting better through the course of last year,” head coach Ryan Theis said. “I don’t know if we expected this quick of a showing this year.” 

Eight games into the season, Murray has racked up 42 kills and 25 total blocks while also earning all-tournament honors in the Red & White Invitational hosted by Illinois State University.

Murray has already well surpassed the seven kills and two total blocks she had in her first season.

The cause of this season’s early success didn’t happen overnight. It took a season of learning from the sidelines, from every opportunity she got and putting in extra work when no one was watching.

“Last year I put in a lot of extra time, going in for lessons and just trying to really work hard to learn the mechanics that the coaches wanted us to use and then getting to sit back and watch the game, the speed and even getting to play a little just helped build my confidence,” Murray said. 

Going into this season with her newfound confidence, Murray said she saw an opportunity to play and has taken advantage of it.

“I saw an opportunity to be a big contributor to my team this year and it’s such an honor to be able to start for this team because every one of these girls works so hard and it just makes me wanna work hard for them too,” Murray said.

Graduate student outside hitter Hope Werch has taken notice of not just Murray’s growth in play, but what she brings as being 6 feet 4 inches tall.

“Carsen is super fun, she doesn’t let a lot get to her. She comes in and she’s just ready to go,” Werch said. “Carsen has the longest arms I think I’ve ever seen, she just hangs up there and will get a touch on anything she can.” 

Theis said though those long arms have helped Murray get better at blocking, he also attributes her work in the weight room and quickly learning the techniques he and his coaching staff are teaching.

“She’s got to spend a good part of last year, at least lifting … She got significantly stronger, little bit higher above the net,” Theis said. “She’s always been pretty high but just so much more fluid now and able to score at all different areas of the court, which is really impressive.”

In each of Marquette’s eight games, Murray started alongside graduate student middle blocker Savannah Rennie.

Murray said playing with an experienced and high-level middle in Rennie not only helps the team but leads her to learn even more when Rennie leads by example.

“Watching her (Rennie) play and learning from her when we’re doing drills in practice has just helped me figure out these girls have been playing for a long time now,” Murray said. “They know what they’re doing so it’s awesome whenever I can get feedback from them and when they’re super supportive.”

As Rennie is leading by example and becoming a bigger leader on the team, she said Murray is not just taking advantage from learning from but also pushing Rennie herself.

“I try to lead by example, I feel like that’s really effective and I’m trying as a leader to be better at figuring out what teammates want like, helpwise or just like communication-wise,” Rennie said. “Carsen has great skills that I don’t have, I don’t touch 10’5 so that’s something that Carsen and I, we push each other on.”

Along with seeing the skills that Murray possesses, Rennie sees Murray as a great teammate and as someone whose personality makes her a teammate she enjoys playing with.

“Carsen, she’s awesome. I’m much older but she’s so young , fun, a great teammate, always super positive and I think that’s what you need on the court or on the team,” Rennie said. “Everyone is super different, and you need all different personalities to make a team function and she really brings the positivity and bubbliness of the team and that’s one of her best assets.”

Murray brings her bubbliness with her everywhere she goes, she said she makes sure she brings her game to the court as well.

Yet even when her game is doing all the talking, Murray has her eyes set on one thing.

“I want my biggest focus to be on playing for my teammates and just doing my job well,” Murray said. “I would say my expectation is just executing our game plan well and not worrying about  my individual performance but our team performance as a whole.” 

This story was written by Ben Schultz. He can be reached at benjamin.a.schultz@marquette.edu or on Twitter @benschultz52.