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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Kelly Murphy isn't worried about a sophomore slump.

UF's first-ever AVCA National Freshman of the Year will start her second season in Gainesville with plenty of expectations to live up to, but she is taking them all in stride.

"There's always pressure because everyone's going to be expecting me to match up to what happened last year," Murphy said. "I'm just excited to start playing again. I'm ready for the season to start."

In 2008, Murphy performed about as efficiently and impressively as anyone could have expected from the nation's top recruit. She broke the school record for career triple-doubles with six in her first 27 matches as a freshman.

Murphy finished the year leading the team in kills (357) and hitting percentage (.358) and second in assists (610) and digs (209) while recording 12 straight double-doubles during Southeastern Conference play.

"For a freshman to come in and be that dominant, it's kind of unheard of," senior libero Elyse Cusack said. "But she's an exceptional player, and she's a special player. I'm just glad she's on my team."

After a productive offseason in Gainesville, Murphy is back on the court and, according to her coach and teammates, better than ever.

The versatile opposite hitter/setter spent the spring improving her setting, and the team's offseason conditioning and weightlifting has made her faster and fitter than she was during her record-setting first year at UF.

Add a season of experience at the college level and stronger team chemistry, and Murphy has established a sense of confidence in her ability and her teammates that should allow her to develop as a leader. Murphy said she hopes to become a more vocal and emotional presence on the court, a role that should come more naturally without the occasional nervousness she felt as a freshman.

Although all signs point to Murphy having improved nearly every aspect of her game, her teammates said she just needs to be as good as she was last year for the team to be successful.

"Murph, she just has to be Murph, honestly," junior opposite hitter Lauren Bledsoe said. "There's not too much that she has to do. If she just does a nice little repeat of last year, I'll be fine with that."

But after a full spring and summer of training at UF, Murphy is prepared to do more in 2009 than just rehash her freshman campaign. UF coach Mary Wise called her one of the most competitive players on the team, a trait that should keep her motivated to continue improving throughout her time at UF.

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"She wants to win and will do anything to win," Wise said. "If I asked her to be our libero, she would do it to win."

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