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Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray will wear 27 to honor late father

Nebraska volleyball commit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class Harper Murray
Nebraska volleyball commit and the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class Harper Murray (Courtesy: Harper Murray)

Outside hitter Harper Murray, the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class according to PrepVolleyball.com, committed to Nebraska for three main reasons.

“Three of the reasons that really stick out to me is their history of player development,” said the 6-foot-2 athlete from Michigan. “That was a really big deal for me, because I feel like when I'm at college, I want to get better as a person and a player.

“I have a really good relationship with the coaching staff. That was super, super important because I want to have a good relationship with my coaches and teammates. And overall, the culture in Nebraska just felt way different than any other school that I was interested in.”

But there was one more very important detail that means the world to Murray. She wanted to wear No. 27 in honor of her father, Vada Murray.

Vada passed away from lung cancer when Harper was six years old, despite never smoking. He was an Ann Arbor police officer for 20 years and played football at Michigan where he wore No. 27.

“I have been told a lot of stories about him,” Harper said. “I know, he was a really competitive person. And I know he was loved by a lot of people in Ann Arbor, where we were from.”

Harper Murray and her father, Vada Murray
Harper Murray and her father, Vada Murray (Courtesy Harper Murray)

Sarah, Harper’s mother, tells her daughter that she has her father’s competitive spirit.

When head coach John Cook asked Harper what number she wanted to wear she explained her desire to honor her father. Cook texted back “27 is good. Love it. Powerful.”

“It meant a lot to me and my family especially. I'm really happy that it worked out,” Murray said. “It meant a lot because I really have always wanted to wear that number. And I was hoping wherever I played in college that I could represent it.”

Harper’s older sister, Kendall Murray, followed in her father’s footsteps and is playing volleyball at Michigan. She also wears No. 27.

Currently, Harper represents her father’s number on her club team. She said she feels his presence on the court with her.

“That's probably one of the main reasons why I want to wear the number,” Murray said. “It just makes me happy when I wear that number.”

A 'Legacy' in the Making

Murray’s club team, Legacy, is the No. 1 club volleyball organization in Michigan and has developed some very talented athletes including Harper and Kendall.

The oldest Murray sister is entering her second season at Michigan and contributed 0.92 kills per set in the 36 matches she played as a freshman. Kendall is one of the four Legacy volleyball veterans turned Wolverines on the current roster.

Harper helped Legacy win an AAU Volleyball U16 National Championship this June. Last year, Legacy’s U15 team won the 2020 Women’s NIT 15u National Championship in Kansas City. With Legacy, Murray has played against the best volleyball players in the country.

“My club team was really successful these past two seasons so I'm really excited to play with them again and win again because my club team is a really successful group of girls,” Murray said.

Murray’s accomplishments and talents got her chosen as one of the 12 athletes on the U.S. U18 Girls National Team that will compete in Mexico in September. Nebraska commit and setter Bergan Reilly was also selected. The two athletes will get a headstart on creating chemistry on and off the court.

Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray won the AAU Volleyball U16 National Championship
Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray won the AAU Volleyball U16 National Championship (Courtesy: Harper Murray)

Harper attends Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan and said her high school team isn’t as competitive as her club team and is focusing on her continued development during Skyline’s season.

“I really want to take that time to get good reps and prepare for U.S.A. because I do plan on playing club right after that,” Murray said. “So I want to get some good reps and I want to, obviously, try and get better.

“Winning a state championship would be awesome for my high school team. We have done really well the past two years.”

Last season, Skyline finished 24-6 on a season that was ended in the state tournament quarterfinals. In 2019, the Eagles lost in the state semifinals and finished the season with a 54-9 record.

In 2020, Murray had 4.5 kills per set and 410 total kills along with a .310 hitting percentage. She served 51 aces, 27 total blocks and 260 digs during the season, according to MaxPreps.

With a full schedule in 2019, the freshman dazzled with 700 kills, 4.6 kills per set and a hitting percentage of .361. Murray put down 156 aces, 30 blocks and 479 digs.

Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray wearing No. 27 in honor of her late father.
Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray wearing No. 27 in honor of her late father. (Courtesy: Harper Murray)

These performances along with those for Legacy earned Murray the title of No. 1 prospect in the class of 2023 by PrepVolleyball.com.

“It's such a huge honor. I can't even explain it,” Murray said. “People have said that to me for the past two years. And I have played in bad games, I've played bad, I've probably messed up a bunch of times, but it means a lot to me that people see that and see my talent.

“I'm just gonna keep working hard and proving to people that I deserve it.”

Driven by a Dream

Murray hasn’t been on Nebraska’s campus since she attended the Huskers Dream Team camp as an eighth-grader in 2018. Despite this, she knew Nebraska was the place for her.

“Their campus is absolutely amazing. I remember going to Devaney and their facility for volleyball is just crazy to me,” Murray said. “The culture stood out to me because I feel like I've never seen a volleyball facility fill up that quickly for a volleyball match before. It’s really cool to me that they could sell out that fast for a volleyball match.”

When picking a school it was important for Murray to find a place with an active fan base. She said she plays best under pressure and the 13,500 fans in red will help apply the pressure she craves.

“I play better in front of a lot of people so that was a really cool thing for me to be able to experience because playing in front of the many people for every match would be such a dream,” she said.

Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray
Nebraska volleyball commit Harper Murray (Courtesy Harper Murray)

As an eighth-grader, Murray created a relationship with Cook and his staff but wasn’t allowed to contact them for two years because of a change in recruiting rules. Now, she talks to Cook often and has already learned a lot from the legendary coach.

“I'm so excited to play under him,” Murray said. “It's honestly really cool that I get to say that and I'm really honored that I can say that. I'm really excited because it's like John Cook, he's such a legendary name.

“I know it's a ways away, two years away, but I'm really excited and he's taught me already so much. He's given me a lot of confidence in myself as a person and player so I'm really excited I get to play under him.”

Although Murray knew she wanted to play for Cook at Nebraska, it was difficult for her not to choose Michigan, her dad’s alma mater and a university he loved.

“He'd be really proud of me,” Murray said. “Michigan wasn't the best fit for me. But I would assume he'd be really happy for me and support me wherever I went to college.”

While she is still two years away from becoming a Husker, Murray has a big goal and a message to Husker fans.

“I want them to know I’m going to win them a National Championship.”