WORDEN — Huntley Project senior Harli Murphy isn’t the most physically imposing middle blocker roaming the Class B volleyball courts.
In fact, at 5-foot-7, Murphy might be one of the shortest middles head coach Iona Stookey has had in her near 40 years as a head coach.
“A lot of people don't expect me to be a middle because I'm so short, but no one really knew that I was going to be where I was last year. It was unexpected," Murphy said. "Just working around the block is the best I can do. I can't hit into a block because I'm so short. I guess my size definitely affects that, but you just have to learn how to hit around the block and use your shot."
“Her and I spent a lot of one-on-one time together, and you could just see that she finally started to figure it out and it was like, 'OK, I can do this,'" Stookey said.
Murphy burst onto the scene as a junior when Project peaked at the end of the season and helped Stookey pick up state title No. 14. Murphy’s impact isn’t just felt through her aggressive play. She might be the loudest voice in the entire gym.
“She likes that energy, and you can feel it. When she's bringing energy, good things are probably happening. And the girls feed off of that," Stookey said. "I think that's for any team, though. If you have someone that can bring some energy, you feed off of it."
“I feel like energy is a lot, because when I'm quiet everyone is kind of down. So, you have to bring a lot of energy," Murphy said. "We have a lot of fun when we bring energy and we're excited about little things."
That energy has been a must for Project this year. With a move to District 3B, there have been nights where Project might cruise to victory rather easily, so the Red Devils' focus and attention to detail has been at an all-time high during practices.
“We need to keep working hard like we're the No. 2 team. That's what I want them to do. We haven't talked about anything — record, last year," Stookey said. "For me, we have tough practices. We're not slacking by any means. I'm not easy on them, let's put it that way."
Sure looks like Stookey is priming her Red Devils to hang a 15th championship banner.