When Anna Huse resigned from Brebeuf Jesuit after the 2014 season, BJPS Athletic Director Ted Hampton reached out to another former Brebeuf coach for some leads on a replacement .  Brian Murray had helmed the school’s program through an unprecedented time of success from 1999 to 2012.  At the time of Hampton’s call, he was directing the Team Indiana club program which exposed him to some of the best up-and-coming coaches in the game.  If anyone would have had insight into both what it would take to be successful at Brebeuf and a list of candidates capable of filling the job, it would have been him.  When the phone rang, Murray had exactly the right person in mind – a guy by the name of Brian Murray.

Murray’s first run at Brebeuf was impressive to say the least.  His teams made it to a total of six Final Fours, bringing home three State Championships and one Runners-Up.  The three State Championship winners all finished the year ranked in the Top 10 nationally by Prep Volleyball, with the 2005 team breaking into the Top 5.  Three players were named Indy Super Team Player of the Year, and Sam Gray was honored as the 2005 Gatorade National Player of the Year.  For his part, Murray was named Indy Super Team Coach of the Year on four occasions.

As Murray’s son began to seriously pursue soccer, it became impossible to serve two masters.  The rigors of coaching high school volleyball at the highest level made it difficult to carve out the time necessary for travel to soccer games or to help with transportation to practices.  The Team Indiana program (where Murray was and still is Club Director and co-owner) was growing as well, requiring more and more attention.  As a family, they decided it made the most sense to step away from Brebeuf to concentrate on their son’s needs first and Team Indiana second.

Fast forward three years, and the conversation had changed a little.  “One of the major reasons I left was to be available to watch my son play soccer; as he has gotten older, his schedule has changed (games and practices are now later). This has allowed me to see quite a few of his matches and still coach. Before I agreed to come back, my wife, son, and I had discussions to make sure we were all on the same page.”

When Hampton called, he was interested.  “Ted Hampton being named AD was a major factor.  My family had been a part of Brebeuf for 12 years, and I missed working with the girls.”  After several phone calls, conversations, and the aforementioned family meetings, it was decided he would take the job.

Three seasons into his return, Murray has his girls on the brink of returning to the State Championship for the first time in four years.  Led by upperclassmen Maddie McKay (Sr.), Grace Roudebush (Sr.) and Reagan Hopp (Jr.), the Braves will face Silver Creek on Saturday for the right to play for a State Championship at Ball State next weekend.

“We have been working so hard all year, and it feels like all of our hard work is paying off.  I am extremely proud of how we are accomplishing our goals one step at a time,” shared Roudebush.

“We have come so far as a team since losing in last year’s Sectional finals,” added Seton Hall commit Hopp.

This group has already won seven more matches than last year’s squad and has continued to demonstrate improvement from week to week.  They have gained experience through playing in big matches throughout the season, such as weekend invitationals, conference play, and the Marion County tournament.  Win, lose, or draw, the growth has been readily apparent in the weeks following.

“Their maturity and composure in big situations has been really impressive.  They have complete trust in us and their teammates, and are completely committed to one another,” complimented Murray.

Their composure has been formed by the skills they have honed together through rigorous practices and the commitment Murray mentioned.

“The entire team holds each other accountable, because we established at the beginning of the season that we all have the same goal,” explained McKay.  “We have been talking and planning for this moment since the summer and every moment in the gym has had a purpose – the purpose being that we are playing for each other. Instead of having our own (personal) goals, they include everyone, and no one wants to let anyone down. This is the driving force to our victories and our strength in taking it one step at a time, to go as far as we can, together, in this tournament.”

“Our greatest strengths are probably our versatility and team connection,” echoed fellow senior Roudebush.  “Our team is strong in so many different aspects, so every player feels like she is contributing. This has created an amazing sense of unity among our team, because we have learned how to trust each other when things get tough.”

Things have been tough on the court during matches, but also during practices.  Murray and his staff push their athletes to be the best they can be.  He believes the lessons he is teaching extend beyond athletic pursuits and will have a lasting impact on life outcomes down the road.

“I believe in using volleyball and its competitive challenges to develop life skills. I believe competition creates a unique opportunity for athletes to grow that can’t be replicated outside of sports.  Every player/person puts limitations on themselves; coaches, teammates and competition can help an athlete break through that “self-imposed” ceiling in a way that is unique to sports. The lessons learned while struggling (perseverance, trusting others, conflict resolution, and self-evaluation) to reach a goal can be a powerful tool for an individual as they meet other challenges. In short, it’s about more than volleyball.  I’m a big believer that our program is a family,” expounded Murray.

“I want my players to understand great things don’t come easy but are definitely worth sacrificing for.  Find your passion and commit to it. Don’t be afraid to be decisive!”

His players get it.

“Playing for Coach Murray has been an intense and very rewarding experience. We all know how dedicated he and the rest of our coaching staff are to our program, so our team has really been able to trust the system. Coach Murray’s knowledge for the game is undeniable, so we have received the opportunity to really learn all the different elements of the sport. Additionally, I have learned valuable lessons from the coaching staff that I will be able to use beyond the volleyball court,” Roudebush testified.

“He uses his passion and love for the game to instill in his players the idea that competition, effort, and hard work are necessary ingredients for success in volleyball and also in life,” McKay confirmed.  “Coach Murray challenges everyone to do their best and to play for yourself and each other. At times, he can get loud and frustrated with us, but ultimately we know that it is all for a purpose.  His only goal for us is to make sure we do our best, and we leave everything we have out on the floor. Playing for him has been an extraordinary experience.  When he came back to our program, I had faith that he would we be an important factor in helping us get to the place we are right now.”

The “place they are right now” is a day away from facing a Silver Creek team who they lost to at the Brebeuf Jesuit Invitational three weeks ago.  Still, Murray is confident.  “I think the extra practices and challenging matches over these last 2-3 weeks have further solidified an already tight bond the girls have.”

He may be on to something.

“Our team is actually one big family. I have never gotten along with a team more than I have this season. When it comes to the underclass men, I feel like an older sister who everyone can come to when they need help. I love our team so much and am not ready for this season to be over,” confided Roudebush.

There’s no doubt they will roll into Sellersburg completely prepared for what awaits them.  Murray has a reputation as a great “big match” coach and a master game-planner.

“Brian Murray has been around the game of volleyball for a very long time both as a player and a coach.  He knows the game backwards and forwards.  I have coached against him in some heated and fun battles for the past ten years.  No matter his talent level, he has his teams prepared for each opponent.  They will come focused and ready to play this Saturday, of that I have no doubt,” Roncalli coach Missy Marsh offered.

As for his experience thus far into his second tour, what has been Murray’s favorite moment?  “The past two Saturdays, seeing the excitement and joy in the players and parents as they’ve gotten the opportunity to share these accomplishments for the first time…it’s a big reason I decided to come back.”

Hopefully there will be two more Saturdays with the exact same scene.