Murphy Enjoying Japan, Looks Forward

By Bill Kauffman | Jan. 26, 2015, 11:43 a.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 26, 2015) – Kelly Murphy has become a dominant international opposite hitter since joining the U.S. Women’s National Team during the 2013 season after earning American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-American honors four times as a setter/hitter in a 6-2 offense at the University of Florida.

Murphy has been the leading scorer in both her seasons with Team USA and has 784 points in two seasons. She totaled 157 points during the 2014 FIVB Women’s World Championship in which the Americans won for the first time in program history. With the victory Team USA moved into the top spot in the world ranking ahead of Brazil. During the summer of 2014, Murphy played a key role in the U.S. defeating Brazil in all four matches of the USA Volleyball Cup series in July.

In her rookie season, Murphy helped the U.S. win the 2013 NORCECA Women’s Continental Championship. Along the way, she was named the most valuable player and best spiker of the tournament. Less than two months later she had a silver medal hanging around her neck as the Americans finished second at the season-ending FIVB World Grand Champions Cup.

2015 will be her third season with Team USA, and it will include hosting the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round in Omaha from July 22-26. Outside of the 1996 Olympic Games, the World Grand Prix Final Round represents the most prestigious women's international volleyball tournament to be staged on American soil.

“I am incredibly happy that the FIVB World Grand Prix Final Round is in Omaha this year,” Murphy said. “The fact that we have the chance to represent the USA and play in front of our own fans is so exciting. We spend so much of our careers playing overseas that the chance to play in front of family and friends is such a blessing. I am so happy that our USA fans get an opportunity to see the best teams in the world competing in Omaha. It definitely makes it really special for us."

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Playing professionally in the club volleyball scene overseas, Murphy has played in three different leagues around the world starting with the Puerto Rico Super League in 2012 after completion of her collegiate career at Florida, followed by the Italian Serie A1 in 2013 and back to Puerto Rico in time for the playoffs. In the 2014-15 season, she is currently playing professionally on her third different continent and this time with Ageo Medics in the Japan V-League.

Murphy indicates both the Italian and Japanese leagues have been competitive, but the main difference has been how well the Japanese control their side of the net and frustrating opposing offenses.

“The Italian League and the Japanese League are both really competitive,” Murphy said. “Every team is good and you really can't take a night off because anyone can beat anyone. But for me the main difference has been the defensive play of the Japanese league. The way they pursue and dig balls makes for really long rallies and can be very frustrating for a hitter sometimes. It is really difficult to get the ball to hit the floor so I've had to really work on my range of shots as a hitter.”

One of the main challenges for Murphy being away from home and Team USA is a process that comes naturally for others who do not experience playing for a foreign team.

“I think the biggest difference for me especially in Japan is just the communication with my teammates,” Murphy said. “I really love my team here and we have a lot of fun, but because we don't speak the same language it can be hard to get to know someone. I love the relationships I have with my teammates on Team USA. We have such great chemistry and I love coming back to train every summer mostly because of the great friendships I've made.”

While longing to again play with Team USA later this year, Murphy has overcome some of the language barrier in Japan and enjoyed being around her Ageo Medics teammates on and off the court.

“One of the best moments for me was our first match of the season,” Murphy said. “It was the first time competing in the top division for this team, so it was a really big deal for us. We were able to come out with a victory and everyone was so happy. We also had a Christmas party with the whole team and staff that was really fun. We had a big lunch and did a secret Santa gift exchange. We spend a lot of time practicing, so it was nice to see everyone in a different setting and get to know my teammates a little better.”

One aspect that makes playing fun in Japan are the spectators, according to Murphy. She has been on both sides of the net playing in the Japan V-League, as well as for Team USA against the Japan National Team. And in both cases, they fans are always supportive.

“The fans here are all so supportive,” Murphy said. “We have a pretty full gym for every match. They are very involved in the games and have a lot of cheers, some of them are even coordinated with music. I love the support here. Even when I am playing for Team USA the fans have been very supportive. They love volleyball and they really make it a special experience.”

Even with the long practices and two matches each weekend, Murphy has still been able to get out to see parts of Japan and experience the culture.

“I've done a little sightseeing so far while I've been here,” Murphy said. “I'm pretty close to Tokyo, so I've gone to different areas around there a few times. I usually try to find a restaurant that serves whatever food I'd been craving recently. There's a lot of variety; I've had steak, pizza, even Mexican. I visited a temple near Tokyo the first month I was here and that was a really cool experience. Recently I went up in the Tokyo Skytree. It was such a cool experience to see Tokyo from up so high.”

Bonus Responses from Kelly Murphy:

Top songs you are listening to now?
Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran, Sugar by Maroon 5

A hidden talent of yours that most do not know about?
I'm not fantastic at it but I really like baking desserts, especially chocolate chip cookies.

Something new that you are learning to do or do better not related to volleyball?
I'm trying to read more. I have a Kindle and I love it, so I'm working on reading as many books as I can in my spare time.