ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Harper Murray had Saturday, Nov. 12, circled on her calendar for months.
The timing lined up perfectly for the nation’s No. 1 volleyball recruit out of Ann Arbor Skyline. National Signing Day on Nov. 9 and then three days later, her first chance to represent Nebraska as a signee, rather than just a commit, when NU’s football team made the trek to her hometown to play Michigan.
“I was super excited for this,” Murray said, standing a few feet away from Nebraska football’s equipment truck just outside Michigan Stadium.
One small hiccup, though. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate with what she planned to wear.
On Thursday, the high reached 74 degrees in Ann Arbor. By kickoff Saturday, temperatures plummeted to around freezing with snow flurries steadily coming down throughout much of the game’s first half.
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Instead of being a speck of red in a sea of blue, Murray resorted to wearing both. She had a light Nebraska jacket on before realizing that wasn’t going to be enough, so while at her sister Kendall's house, Harper grabbed her sister's Michigan volleyball team-issued heavy coat.
“I have been freezing all day,” Murray said with a laugh as the snow outside the stadium came down at a heavy clip.
High school volleyball regionals, National Signing Day and the football game were just the start of an eventful stretch for Murray.
This week is her last week at Skyline, as she’s graduating at semester and will enroll early at Nebraska. Murray said regardless of where she ended up, she’d enroll early.
But she has known for a while that she’d be taking her talents to Nebraska. The bonds forged between her and the other NU commits in July 2021 while playing for the U.S. U18 team were crucial.
“When I was at camp, I just decided, I want to be in Nebraska. That’s where I want to be,” Murray said. “I love the girls. I love the culture.”
The expectations, even now, are sky-high.
Last week, Nebraska coach John Cook said Murray evokes a comparison to one of the best volleyball players to come through Nebraska.
“She reminds me a lot of Jordan Larson at this age,” said Cook of Murray in comparison to Nebraska’s three-time All-American outside hitter and three-time Olympic medalist. “Just how she plays the game, her demeanor. I just get a lot of reminders.”
Murray, also an outside hitter, is decorated in her own right.
Depending on the outlet, she’s the No. 1 or No. 2 recruit in the 2023 class. She, along with the U.S. U19 team, won gold this summer at the Pan American Cup. At said tournament, she earned the Best Spiker award. In 2021, the U.S. U18 team earned the bronze medal at the World Championships. Plus, she’s earned All-American and All-State honors at the high school ranks.
When asked of Cook’s comparison, Murray said it made her feel “amazing.”
“I look up to Jordan,” Murray said. “I’ve watched her in her Olympic games and national games. And when I’m at USA stuff, learning with the team, my coaches use a lot of examples and they use her a lot, so that means a lot. That’s really cool.”
Murray describes her style as a hybrid between finesse and power hitting, and is looking forward to working with Cook and assistants Jaylen Reyes and Kelly Hunter so she can improve in both areas.
As far as the vision for 2023, it’s a little early to say specifically what the coaching staff has in mind for if she’ll start right away or how she’ll figure into the rotation as a freshman.
But there Murray does know one thing: “(Cook) wants me to be a good passer. I know that’s something we need, but I’m happy to be wherever I need to. I just want to win. I want to play. I want to be with my team, have a good relationship with everyone. Whatever he needs, I’ll do.”
As fall turns into winter, there are plenty of upcoming dates highlighted on Murray’s calendar: Moving day. First day of classes. First spring practice.
But when the 2023 schedule comes out, you already know there’s one match (or two) that will stick out from the rest: facing her sister and the Wolverines for what could be Kendall’s final season.
“It definitely will be hard for my mom to decide what to wear to our game when we play each other,” Murray said. “But she’ll figure it out.”
Luckily for Sarah Murray, an indoor venue means she won’t have to worry about the weather forcing a last-minute outfit change.