Tourney doubles as homecoming for 4 Knights
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 16:09
This weekend’s trip to Austin, Texas for the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational brings some southern comfort to the hearts of four members of the volleyball team who were born and raised in the Lone Star State.
Freshmen Kaci Thompson and Dana Faught both come from Round Rock, Texas, and redshirt freshman Kayla Keller is from San Antonio.
However, this upcoming weekend probably means the most to senior Meredith Murphy, who, during her final season as a Knight, is at last getting to play in her hometown of Austin for the first time in her college volleyball career.
“It’s really exciting to go back,” Murphy said. “I think we’re all pumped to go play in Texas, especially us because it’s where we grew up, and playing in Gregory Gymnasium is a big deal.”
Head coach Todd Dagenais knew how much this trip home would mean to all his Texas natives.
He made sure that they would make it there this season in order to ensure not only that they would face some good competition, but also that his players would get a little taste of home, especially Murphy.
“The reason why we’re doing this is Meredith,” Dagenais said. “It’s her senior year and the plan was always to try and get her back and play on the big stage by her senior year, and we were able to make that happen this year. It’s going to be a great experience for her to play in front of so many family and friends.”
Murphy has another incentive for her excitement going into this weekend’s tournament. She is just 33 digs away from breaking the school’s record, and the chance to break that record in front of her family and friends while playing in her home state is a high motivation factor for the senior.
“I would love to break the record in Texas,” Murphy said. “That would be a dream come true for me.”
Murphy isn’t the only one hoping to crack the record while in Austin. Dagenais, as well as her other coaches and teammates, hopes to see this weekend as not only a sentimental one for Murphy, but one for the record books as well.
“What’s really unique is she has the opportunity to break the school’s digs record right there in Austin, in her hometown,” Dagenais said. “That’s really something that we’re all looking forward to, and hopefully that will happen.”
However, achieving this goal will not be an easy one as the Knights (3-6) go up against the toughest competition they’ve seen so far this season. Illinois (4-5), Cincinnati (1-8) and Texas (6-2) are all teams of national prominence, and beating them is going to be a tough obstacle on the road to a record-breaking season.
“This weekend is definitely going to be challenging, but we’ve been working hard in practice,” Faught said. “We’re preparing ourselves for the fast-paced tempo that Texas, Illinois and Cincinnati will probably bring, but we’ve prepared and I think we’ll be alright.”
Although these teams will be tough to beat, the Knights always embrace a challenge. Even though the competition may be “bigger in Texas,” they are looking forward to grabbing the bull by the horns and facing these teams head on.
“We have to see where we stack up against one of the big dogs in the country,” Dagenais said. “This was one of the weekends that we highlighted on the calendar a long time ago knowing that we would get to play some of the best teams in the country.”
The Knights have been experimenting with different lineups and rotations throughout the duration of the season, trying to find what works best for them before they begin playing conference matches.
While this tournament isn’t one that they’re taking lightly, for the team right now, it’s more about looking toward the future rather than this one specific weekend.
“The preparation for us isn’t any different, especially for where we are right now,” Dagenais said. “We’re a couple weeks behind of where we were hoping to be as far as development stuff. Right now, it’s a lot of preseason for us. We’re really working a lot on our side of the ball, on our systems both offensively and defensively. We’re still trying to figure out the right personnel on the floor and the right combinations of those personnel. We’re still trying to find ourselves.”
While the competition may be tough, the Knights show nothing but enthusiasm for this weekend’s matches.
It is the thought of playing some competitive teams for some, while returning home for others, that makes the team energy high and positive as the tournament approaches.
“I think we just have a really neat opportunity to just go and play against some top teams and really see how we compare to them,” Murphy said.
The Knights will kick off the tournament playing Cincinnati on Friday, followed by games against Illinois and Texas on Saturday.