New head coach and new region opponents await Murray HS volleyball this fall
Murray High School volleyball players expect a return to the state tournament this November. (MHS volleyball Facebook page)
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The Murray High School volleyball team will have an all-new look this fall. The girls will compete against several new region opponents under a new head coach. That coach even has a new name. And one new team member is a southern California transplant.
Last season, Danielle Whittaker was the Murray JV volleyball head coach Since then she’s married, and it’s now Danielle Humphreys who will guide the Spartan varsity team this season.
“A couple of our great players from last year have graduated,” Humphreys said. But the Hurricane High School and Southern Utah University graduate also added, “We will be competitive and have as good a shot as any team to claim the region title.”
Region 6 will have three Salt Lake School District newcomers this fall: East, Highland and West high schools. But the only team to finish ahead of Murray in last year’s volleyball standings—the Skyline Eagles—are also back to try to defend their title.
Among those lost to graduation for the Spartans are last year’s Region 6 co-MVP Alarie Anderson and first team all-region players Mikayla Weichers and Jessica Page. Weichers is moving to the Florida panhandle to play volleyball for Pensacola State College.
But Coach Humphreys said a pair of outside hitters will help take up the slack for those departures.
“Cassidy Ross (senior) and Abbie Hughes (junior) are great,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited to have them.”
Cassidy is a familiar face, earning her way onto the all-region second team a year ago.
“I really want to play college volleyball,” she said. “So, I’m trying to work hard at it.”
Though Stanford would be her “dream school” to play at the next level, Ross says she’d also be thrilled to compete for any school here in Utah. And she believes Coach Humphreys can help get there.
“I love Coach Whittaker,” she said (the new name still hadn’t sunk in). “She’s super dedicated and very focused. I think we’re headed for a great season.”
As for Abbie Hughes, she’s yet another new aspect of the Spartan volleyball program.
“Last year at this time I was still living (and playing volleyball) in Huntington Beach (California, south of Los Angeles),” she said. “But my dad got a new job here and I started at Murray High just as the last volleyball season was ending.”
Since then, Hughes said she’s gotten to know most of her new teammates by playing on club teams.
“They’re terrific; very fun to play with,” she said. “My teammates have great attitudes and are very competitive. I’m looking forward to the season.”
The Murray girls had a 3-day volleyball camp in May, a 2-day camp in June (featuring coaches from Snow College) and a quick tournament at Salt Lake Community College.
The focus now is on the official team tryouts, August 7-9.
“We’ll post the team that Wednesday (Aug. 9), and hold a parents’ meeting the next night,” Humphreys said. “Then we’ll only have three or four days to practice, before our first games.”
Straight out of the shoot, the Murray girls will be able to size up the defending Region 6 champion Eagles during a 2-day preseason tournament at Skyline.
Then it’s on to a match at West Jordan. The Murray volleyball home opener is September 7 hosting American Fork.
While Humphreys takes over the varsity team, last season’s varsity head coach, Cheryl Jones, is remaining with the program to now guide the Spartans’ freshman volleyball team.
In a strange twist of fate a year ago, all four Region 6 teams that qualified for the 4A state tournament—Skyline, Murray, Olympus and Judge Memorial—lost two straight matches, to go out on the first day.
Humphreys is confident her team will have a better ending this November.
“What I love about this group of girls is they are very disciplined and coachable,” she said. “I think we have a great shot at a successful season.”