Sissonville's Murray gains strength through adversity
When Sissonville forward Lydia Murray informed University of Charleston soccer coach Todd Diuguid that she would be joining his program, it was one of the happiest days of her life.
"It was something I had been thinking about for a while," Murray said of committing to UC. "I felt like I made a really good decision to play for a great school and a great coach.
"They are like one big family, which is one of the biggest reasons I decided to play there. Family is really important to me. My mom and grandparents are very supportive of me and attend every game, whether home or away."
Since Murray started playing soccer at the early age of 3, she always dreamed of going to college one day and playing soccer.
"If soccer was on the television, she would be right there glued to the screen," said her mother, Shelly Murray. "She would say 'I want to be like them.' Mia Hamm was her favorite player."
But that dream almost never came true.
In January 2011, during Murray's sophomore year, her father passed away after a long battle with cancer, and she strongly considered hanging up her soccer cleats.
"I was having such a tough time with his death," Lydia Murray said. "I figured it would be just easier not to play because he wasn't here anymore.
"He was my biggest fan. He came to all my games. He wasn't even a big sports fan. He wanted to be there to support me because that was the single-most thing to him."
Ultimately, it was her father's undying support and sacrifice that led Murray back to brushing off the cleats and embracing the sport again.
"Even though he is gone physically, I know he is still cheering for me to this day," Murray said. "I didn't want to let him down. I wanted him to be proud of me."
The word "proud" would be an understatement of what Gene Murray would feel if he was still cheering on his daughter from the stands.
Last year, Murray was named Class AA forward of the year, along with being selected as a first-team all-state choice. She was also a member of a Sissonville squad that advanced to the state championship game last season before falling to Grafton 2-1.
"I felt really bad after the loss [to Grafton]," Murray said. "I thought we could have played a little better than we actually did. That's the past, though. My main focus is to win the state championship this year."
The Indians (15-2), ranked No. 2 in the state coaches association rankings, certainly have a great chance to make a return trip to the championship game spearheaded by Murray, who is just six goals shy of eclipsing the Kanawha Valley career record of 130 goals scored by former Sissonville standout Rebekah Kendall.
"I don't really feel any pressure breaking the record," Murray said. "I would love to do it, but that's not my main goal.
"We had a good team last year, but I think the difference this year is that our team has more scorers. We have some players that really make my job easy."
Freshman Madison Jones is second on the team with 20 goals behind Murray's 28.
"Lydia and I have great chemistry," Jones said. "What people don't know about her is she is one of the most unselfish people I've met. I think it's pretty impressive that she scores all those goals and still plays unselfishly.
"Coming in as a freshman, I expected to just pass a lot to her so she could break the record. But she has passed up goals on her own to assist some of my goals. You don't see that type of play a lot. I really want her to break the record. I wish I could play one more year with her and all the seniors."
There are five seniors on the Sissonville squad, including Murray.
"I think everything in life has made me a stronger person," Murray said. "Sometimes you have to endure some hard times to get to the good times."
"They say when a person faces adversity, then you see their true character," said Sissonville girls basketball coach Rich Skeen, who also coaches Murray. "She could have easily given up because some many people do when they face adversity. She didn't, and that's a testament to her character. We could all learn from her strength."