Under the direction of Ken Murphy, the second-most tenured head coach in school history, the UTEP volleyball program is on an upward spiral of success.
He concluded his sixthth year in 2011, and now trails only the legendary Norm Brandl (1976-98) for the longest reign at the institution by a volleyball coach.
The Miners have produced some of the top seasons in the modern era under his watch.
Murphy directed the Miners in 2011, a team with seven newcomers, to 19 wins. Sophomores Xitlali Herrera and Jeane Horton earned spots in the All-Conference USA team.
Under his guidance, Herrera was named to the All-Conference USA First Team. Herrera became the fourth player in program history to garner first-team honors, after leading the squad in kills (384), hitting percentage (.321), kills per set (3.23) and Blocks (132). Herrera also ranks second in program history for block assists in a single season with 121. The middle blocker was also named a 2011 AVCA All-Midwest Region Honorable Mention.
Horton received All-Conference USA second-team honors, tallying 380 kills, 74 blocks (17s/57a) and 3.19 kills per set. The outside hitter registered 22 double-digit kill performances and posted three contests with 20 or more kills.
The Miners have also thrived in the classroom under Murphy's direction; Stephanie Figueroa became the first Miner in program history to be named to the 2011 Capital One Academic All-America Division I Volleyball second team. Figueroa carried a flawless 4.0 and led UTEP's backcourt with 571 digs and recorded double-digit dig performances in 27 of 30 matches.
In 2010, the program collected its 500th victory marking just the second program at UTEP to accomplish the feat.
Individuals have also thrived, with Murphy mentoring players who have been among the most notable to ever don the Orange and Blue.
In 2010, Horton and Melissa Toth were named Conference USA All-Freshman selections and Figueroa, UTEP's libero, garnered the league's Defensive Player of the Week honors twice during the campaign.
Murphy tutored former standouts and El Paso natives Catherine Chavez and Amy Sanders. Chavez became just the third player in UTEP history to record more than 1,000 digs (1,229) and kills (1,108) in a career. Sanders rates second all time at the school in kills (1,431).
UTEP closed out the 2009 campaign ranked second in the league and 29th nationally in blocks per set (2.6). Leading the charge in that department was Cassandra Burruel, who checked in fourth among C-USA players for blocks per set (1.12). Burruel broke the program's four-set match record with 12 assisted net stops against Marshall (10/18/09).
There has been a resurgence of local interest in UTEP volleyball since Murphy took over in 2006. The Miners have been atop the league's ranks in attendance, amassing 20,279 (545 match average) fans in 2007, 2008 and 2009. It marked the best three-year stretch at the school in the past decade. His community efforts and alumnae outreach have played a big role in the Miners playing 22 contests in front of a crowd of at least 600 fans, including seven matches surpassing 1,000 fans.
The Miners have also excelled academically under Murphy's tutelage. Twenty-seven student-athletes have been named to Conference USA's Commissioner's Academic Honor, with four earning the prestigious C-USA Commissioner's Academic Medal. In 2007 Katie Smith garnered placement on the C-USA All-Academic team, and in 2009 Burrell was also recognized. Chavez also secured the league's Spirit of Service Award for her community service.
In his first year (2006), Murphy led the Miners to a record-breaking season. Smith and Elsa Reyes broke UTEP single-season records for assists and digs, respectively. Smith's 1,356 assists smashed the 15-year school standard.
Under his guidance, Smith received Academic All-Conference USA honors while eight student-athletes were named to Conference USA's Commissioner's Honor Roll.
Murphy came to UTEP after serving six seasons as the associate head coach for the University of Idaho, where he helped lead the Vandals to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2003 and 2004.
While at Idaho, Murphy's duties included recruiting and team development, with primary responsibilities over middle blockers and setters. He also oversaw offensive and blocking systems, as well as strategies.
Prior to Idaho, Murphy was an assistant coach at Colorado State. He helped the Rams qualify for three NCAA tournaments, including a Sweet-16 appearance in 1999 and second-round showings in 1997 and 1998.
Murphy also served as head coach of various club organizations around the country over a 10-year period. While in Fort Collins, Colo., he guided his 18U team to a top-20 ranking during the 1999 season and led the Norco Juniors to the 1998 Rocky Mountain Region title and the 1997 USA Volleyball national qualifiers.
He also had extensive high school coaching experience. As an assistant coach, he led Marcos de Niza High School (Tempe, Ariz.) to the 5A state title in 1992 and 1993, as well as a state runner-up finish in 1994. As the boy's varsity coach, he directed the team to the state quarterfinals in 1994.
Murphy received his bachelor's degree from Arizona State in 1992 and master's degree in 1995. He was born on July 19, 1968.
Murphy married the former Corie Isaacson on May 17, 2008. The couple has two children, Makenna Deborah and Kellan.
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