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Melissa Murdza may have been one of the shorter players on Mount Hebron's volleyball team, but her contribution to the Vikings' state championship season was huge.

Murdza, Hebron's 5-foot-4 senior setter and The Howard County Sun's Player of the Year, carried the Vikings in many ways to their 18-1 season.

She distributed the ball smoothly to all four of Hebron's main offensive threats -- Andrea Day (5.3 kills per match), Brooke Christopher (5.4), Tracy Porter (4.6) and Jen Dohler (4) -- while averaging 21.6 assists per match.

She was the team's best server, with a 94 percent success rate. She committed only 20 service errors during the entire season, and averaged four aces.

Murdza also took care of the intangible chores coaches cherish so much.

She's the type of player who never misses a practice, always goes full throttle at practice, never complains and always tries to deflect the credit to someone else.

On a team loaded with talent, Murdza was Hebron's lone indispensable player.

"The thing is, when a setter is having a bad day, everybody notices," said Hebron coach Jeannine McCrumb.

"If a hitter isn't having a good day, you just set someone else. Melissa rarely had an off day."

Murdza had many great matches. Her most memorable may have been the county-title clinching victory over Centennial at the end of the regular season, when Murdza and teammate Cescili Drake sparked a comeback from a six-point deficit in the final game.

Her quiet, steady play throughout the playoffs was a key to Hebron's state-title drive.

"Maybe her biggest contribution is she never wanted to be the star," McCrumb added.

"She's a real humble kid, not cocky at all. I've seen a lot of good players who aren't team players. She was smart enough and goal-oriented enough to know this is a team sport and she constantly tried to better herself.

"I'll miss her leadership and her attitude," McCrumb said.

"We would have been a whole different team without her."

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