Liam Murphy had never considered himself a volleyball player, but he certainly does now.
For four years, the Chaminade senior played guard on the varsity basketball team, including this past winter when he helped lead the Flyers to their first CHSAA title since 2008.
But this spring, Murphy's close friend and the give to his go, 6-6 forward Mike Walsh, convinced Murphy to join the volleyball squad, where Walsh, also a four-year starter in volleyball, was preparing to lead another Chaminade team with championship aspirations of its own.
"I guess I've always been athletic and thought volleyball was a good sport. I love playing it for fun, so I wanted to play it competitively," Murphy said. "It's great playing another sport with Mike. He's really been helping me get a lot better at volleyball . . . and made it a lot more fun for me."
The 6-1 Murphy quickly became a starting outside hitter by successfully transferring basketball skills like jumping and blocking to the volleyball court, just as many boys and girls volleyball players with a basketball background are able to do. Thanks to working with Walsh, Chaminade's starting middle and its top blocker and hitter, Murphy improved his passing, hitting and positioning, and earned consistent playing time in the front and back rows.
"It's amazing how fast he's picked it up," Walsh said. "He's stepping into a leadership role on the team and it's crazy how fast he's been able to read blocks and tips and it's fun to watch."
Chaminade started the season 7-1 as Murphy and Walsh recreated their basketball chemistry on the volleyball court, and fellow starters Joe Trancho, Ryan Bergin, and Jack Nielsen consistently contributed. But on April 26 against St. Anthony's, Walsh went down with an ankle injury, suddenly shifting a greater burden on to the shoulders of Chaminade's inexperienced senior rookie.
"It's weird," Murphy said after that match. "Mike's a great player and him going out hurts our team but I definitely think I have the ability to come in and serve as the leader he is."
And so far Murphy has proved that he can.
Since Walsh's injury, Murphy has become a primary offensive option for the Flyers, with his best match coming in a five-set win over Holy Trinity when he had 20 kills. Chaminade finished the season strong, clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the CHSAA playoffs.
"Liam came in and filled the void very well," Chaminade coach Sal Trentacoste said. "He's a natural athlete and a quick learner . . . his blocking ability has improved, and he's learning to time that jump and to angle the block depending on the attacker's approach. And he can spike it past blockers before they even form."
Walsh finally returned to the lineup in a limited capacity during Friday's regular-season finale. It came as no surprise that Chaminade, with Murphy now used to playing a bigger role, put together its best match of the season in a five-set victory over previously unbeaten Kellenberg.
Now, as the 12-3 Flyers embark on the postseason this week, Murphy knows that with Walsh back on the court, the dream of experiencing another championship together is well within reach if he can maintain the mind-set that helped carry Chaminade through the second half of the season.
"I'm going to have to continue to play the role that Mike had on this team," Murphy said. "And I think I can do it."