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Murtha's leadership, VB skills catch eye of Mount Marty College coach
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

February 05. 2014 9:58AM
Candice Climer sat in the bleachers this past volleyball season watching Brandon Valley and Mitchell battle it out in a five-set match.

“It was a close match that night,” is how Climer remembered the meeting between the two Eastern South Dakota Conference teams.

But Climer wasn’t there to watch the Lynx and Kernels go at it. Instead, she had her eye on a certain player that night: Brandon Valley senior Taylor Murtha.

And what she saw from Murtha that night was much more than the GPAC Conference coach bargained for.

“It was an intense game, and anything the coach (Lindsey Smith) was saying to her, she changed and did,” Climer recalled. “She was constantly into the game and was very smart on reading the ball for defense.”

It was Murtha’s passion for the game and floor leadership the senior libero brought to the court that night that led Climer to signing the Lady Lynx libero to play volleyball for Mount Marty College next fall. The Lancers’ head coach had also heard a good word about the Murtha from others who had played the game alongside her.

“We’ll be looking to use her in that position (libero) as well,” Climer said, starting in the JV ranks. “Sometimes I feel like the libero doesn’t get the recognition because it’s always the hitter getting the kills. But it’s a big part because that’s how they get those big kills, and if we can keep that ball in play, that can help us out on our offense and defense.”

And that’s just the role Murtha enjoys filling.

“I love everything about playing libero,” said the daughter of Larry and Bonnie Murtha. “I just like that I have the chance to get the ball every time. I can make the big dive and not the big hit. I like to be there for the hitters (because) without my pass, the hit wouldn’t have happened.”

Lynx coach Lindsey Smith has been at the helm of Brandon Valley’s program for four seasons, with Murtha taking charge of the libero role three of those four seasons. This was the first year under her head coaching duties here that any player on the Lynx roster has signed to play at the collegiate level. And this year, Smith had two in Murtha and fellow teammate, Briana Grage, who’s headed to Dakota State University.

That’s one of the positives to come out of a big turnaround for the program that produced one of its best seasons in almost a decade.

“It’s exciting to see someone wanting to go on because they love the game,” said Smith, who coached her team to one match shy of reaching the Class AA state tournament.

“We couldn’t get over that hump for years and years,” Smith said. “But it takes some preaching and those girls believing in me and an effort on the court.”

Climer said the GPAC Conference is becoming one of the toughest in the nation. “The competition is crazy but seeing what she can do with her abilities, I definitely think she can help us out,” Climer said.

The Lancers are coming off a 13-20 season, the program’s best winning percentage since 1983, according to Climer.

Smith says Mount Marty should be a good fit for Murtha, who will pursue a degree in nursing there.

“Taylor has been such a huge player for us the past few years. She obviously played a huge role on our defense, but more importantly, her leadership on and off the court, her positive attitude toward the game and being so easy to coach, definitely helped to mold our team and push us to the next level,” Smith said. “So Taylor will be a great advocate for that team, and she’s going to get a lot of playing time there.”

And that’s bodes well for Murtha, who coins the game as “always fun and exciting.”
“It’s not just one player running; it’s a different ball coming at you different ways, and you really can’t prepare for it,” she said.

Brandon Valley High School senior Taylor Murtha signed the paperwork to play volleyball at Mount Marty College. She's pictured with (from left) BVHS head volleyball coach Lindsey Smith, parents – Lary and Bonnie Murtha – and Mount Marty coach Candice Climer. Photo by Jill Meier

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