By (Terrin Waack)

Don’t forget to rub the cheeks for good luck.

Sophomore Natalie Murison isn’t just a reliable libero/defensive specialist for the Alabama volleyball team. She is also its good luck charm.

“Her cheeks are literally ginormous,” junior outside hitter Brittany Thomas said. “It became a little pregame ritual last year after we do our little huddle on the court, we’d squeeze her cheeks for good luck.”

At first, the touching overwhelmed Murison even though she’d been used to hearing comments about her cheeks. She soon got used to it and now just has fun and jokes around about it with her teammates.

“I’ve gotten it my whole life, but they definitely love to touch my cheeks and rub their face against mine,” Murison said. “It’s definitely fun.”

If it’s not her cheeks that are gaining attention, then it’s her bum hand. Murison said she broke it her junior year of club season, right at the beginning. Because it was just her pinky, she didn’t think anything of it and didn’t want to sit out. In the end, it ended up healing crooked. Although it first caused her trouble with setting and serving, since then she has grown used to it and doesn’t even notice it.

It doesn’t impact her game, either. Murison broke a personal record this past weekend, reaching 25 digs against Cal State Fullerton.

“I would expect that that number will continue to grow,” coach Ed Allen said. “Not only is she putting up those number[s], but the kid is playing three different positions in the back court depending on what the lineup is and what we have around her.”

Murison, who was originally a setter when she first started playing, loves the backcourt. She is able to play left back, middle back and right back whenever she is needed. The intensity and being able to dig up a ball is her favorite part of the sport.

She’s a very steady and consistent player, Allen said, and has taken on a leadership role with running the backcourt. Allen loves being able to coach her.

“It’s a piece of cake,” he said. “It’s ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir.’ She listens to instructions, applies necessary changes and is probably as ideal as a teammate you could possible have, not only does she take care of herself in a very professional way, but she’s a consider person as well.”

Thomas said being Murison’s teammate is great. She’s both reliable and funny, and a good person all-around.

“Being able to play with [Murison] in the back row is awesome,” Thomas said. “She’s one of the best liberos I’ve played with. Her constant communication and just her aura on the court are great. She doesn’t get riled up, nothing can really faze her.”

Murison may not be the loudest person in the room, but she is a very observant individual both on and off the court. Thomas said Murison will catch her and other teammates doing silly, embarrassing things and not be afraid to call them out on it.

It was by observing that first got Murison into volleyball as well. She would watch her older sister play all the time and it sparked a fire to play herself, especially when her sister got a volleyball scholarship to Seton Hall.

“I wanted to be just like her and follow in her footsteps,” Murison said. “So watching her do that and watching her play in college is definitely a reason I pushed myself so hard.”

The work has paid off, but not just in her athletics. Allen said she is the type of person that manages every aspect of her life in a way that makes everyone around her better. He expects her to continue to grow as an athlete and as a person come junior and senior year.

“She’s the anchor of that backcourt,” Allen said.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports