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Calling shots on the field

John HartMackenzie Murphy works the ball against defenders.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

With Friday’s 3-0 soccer loss to Rio Americano freshly in the books, her teammates gathering together to congratulate the victors, Nevada Union senior Mackenzie Murphy sat down and closed her eyes for the briefest of respites.

It was the first time Mack and the bench had met all afternoon.



To say Murphy gives her all, no matter the sport, is to understate the obvious. To say the 5-foot-9 two-sport star would rather walk on hot coals than lose is to get warmer to the truth.




“With 13 minutes to go, I told her to take a couple of minutes break before moving her up (to offense),” NU coach Mike Voss said. “She told me that she can’t score four goals in 10 minutes, but she might be able to score them in 13 minutes.”

Mackenzie Murphy is a winner, even in times when her team comes up on the short end of things. In basketball, she was honored as a first-team all-Metro League basketball team. In soccer, the Penn Valley resident recently signed to play soccer for the University of Montana, a Division-I program, next season.

Many athletes have the skills; Murphy makes sure to use those skills and then some. It is her tenacity that had basketball coach Craig Strohm comparing her to the fiercest girls ever to play for his program; it is her intensity that has Voss convinced that she will have a long and successful career in college soccer.

“She will be awesome,” Voss said. “She doesn’t come off the field, is smart on the field. I see her playing four years and starting. If she was at Stanford, trying to walk on, she is going to look out on that field and see who can she beat out. And she is then going to do it.”

Murphy’s road to the University of Montana began last summer, when a friend suggested she contact the school’s soccer program. The initial contact led to her catching the program’s eye in San Diego at the 2001 Surf Cup club soccer state tournament, which her team won last fall.

With no break between Surf Cup and Lady Miner basketball, Murphy’s collegiate decision was shelved until the conclusion of the basketball season in February. The window to visit potential campuses before soccer season got more than a few matches old was small. Murphy made Montana her first visit.

“I was more afraid I wouldn’t like them, then trying to fit in during the visit,” Murphy said. “If they didn’t like me, who cares? I’m not going to change myself for anyone.”

The concerns never came to fruition. Murphy loved the campus, the coaching staff; perhaps the toughest part of the trip was the fact the NCAA would not allow recruits to workout with teams, despite Mack’s every desire to do so.

To top it off the girl she stayed with on the recruiting trip and who will be her roommate next season also has the first name Mackenzie.

“The coaches and players were so welcoming,” Murphy said. “They treated me like I was on the team, and I hadn’t even signed yet.”

Before returning to California, however, Murphy made up her mind. Despite suggestions from Montana soccer coach Betsy Duerksen for Murphy to honor her plans to visit more schools, Murphy committed to the program.

“We lost two players to graduation, so defensively, we had some holes to fill,” Duerksen said. “Mackenzie…should be able to help us out.”

Murphy anticipates battling for playing time at outside fullback next season, a position not far removed from the center fullback slot she fills with the Miners.

Next year will be a bit of a role reversal, for it will be Murphy who is the freshman, receiving field communication, as opposed to this year, when she frequently can be heard as the eyes and ears for the younger players on the team.

“It is wonderful to play in front of the community, but that is not why I play,” Murphy said. “I love soccer. I am someone who has to win, but instead of the overall victory of the game, I just have to make sure that myself and my team do our best. It is more proof of how much I love to compete.”


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