|By Stephen Howard, August 31, 2010 - 9:12 a.m. |
Read This Week's Game Notes
GREEN GANG - With my job as a Sports Information Director, I get the pleasure of talking with many of our coaches immediately after some of the best moments of their sports lives.
I've been bear hugged by Johnny Jones in Lafayette, La. and Hot Springs, Ark., as Sun Belt championship confetti fell to the hardwood. I've been high fived by Sujay Lama after big tennis victories, and gotten that giant smirk from swimming coach Joe Dykstra after his team knocked off TCU for the second time - proving the first wasn't a fluke.
Last weekend I got the opportunity to speak with Ken Murczek following each of his volleyball team's blowout wins in bringing home the Jackson State Invitational title. I expected to hear glowing reviews about stellar play all over the court, but got treated to a different kind of praise, the kind that gives me a ton of hope for NT volleyball.
For the first two minutes of our conversations you would have thought his team had been wiped off the floor. He had critiques for his team's passing, the breakdowns of their back line, their lackluster serve-receive, and so on. Had I not had the stat sheet in front of me I would have thought they had surely been mauled.
Quite the opposite was true, or course. His team held each of its three opponents under .096 hitting (a first in school history) en route to the program's first tournament title since 2006. His setter Kayla Saey was named the JSU Invite MVP by the other coaches, and outside hitter Shelley Morton earned All-Tournament team honors.
Murczek became the first coach to record a three-set sweep in his first career match, but his lone focus was on how his team could improve. It's that mindset that has North Texas volleyball headed skyward and back on the radar to win the Sun Belt's West Division ... immediately.
His team accepts nothing but the best, which is why they are one of only two teams in the league still undefeated.
But the conversation wasn't all negative. He certainly praised the play of many of his players, including setter Saey, outside hitter Roxana Casvean and both of his middle blockers - Melanie Boykins and Rachelle Wilson. Most of all, Murczek couldn't say enough about his team's enthusiasm.
Every player, on the floor and on the bench, came unglued after every point scored, and supported their teammates wholeheartedly. Murczek said it was the most enthusiastic bench he had ever seen, which is high praise for a 15-year coaching veteran that also played at the highest levels.
While I'm sure the play on the floor will get better over the coming months, it doesn't sound like there's much room for improvement in this team's approach to the game.