The following story, written by Austin Coats, was originally published on HailState.com.
Starkville, Miss. - Mississippi State volleyball senior Kendall Murr and redshirt junior Logan Brown share a house in Starkville and the title of team captain, but the two Bulldogs have very different personalities.
While Murr said that she functions as the emotional leader for the group, Brown identifies as a tenacious leader, keeping the team focused on its goals. This creates two sides of a leadership spectrum that naturally balances itself.
"Asking me what jersey we're wearing on what weekend or what we should show up to weights in is not a Logan question, that is a Kendall question," Brown said, pointing emphatically to a laughing Murr. "Asking what kind of offense we're running and what the tempo is, that is a Logan question."
The captains share one goal: getting back on the court. With a talented group of nine newcomers joining an experienced roster, Murr and Brown know the expectations for the program are elevated entering the 2020 season.
"I think our expectations for this season are probably higher than any season before at Mississippi State," Brown said. "We know that we have a really good group. We know as captains that we've done a lot of work to try to push this program in the right direction, and we're getting to a point where everybody's beginning to buy in.
"It's something that's really special to see."
Among the newcomers, State welcomes five promising freshmen to the 2020 squad. This signing class boasts state titles, All-America honors and numerous national recognitions during their prep careers.
"They are spunky!" said Murr, laughing.
"They're wild!" Brown interjected.
"Usually when freshmen come in, they're a little timid," Murr added. "It makes me so excited to see the spark of energy that they have and how willing they are to buy into what [head coach Julie Darty] is building here."
Alongside the rookies, four transfer student-athletes join the mix. After coming into Starkville as transfers in years prior, State's captains relate to that experience and know what those student-athletes can add to the group.
"We all bring different perspectives," Murr said. "I think it's so good to let people know that this school is something special, and at Mississippi State, we receive a different level of care and love."
Though the anticipation of a new season with a talented group creates enough excitement on its own, Brown and Murr are just as happy to get to play the game they love, competitively, for the first time since 2018.
After transferring from Arkansas, Brown was informed right before the beginning of the 2019 campaign that she would have to miss the season. Within a month, she had moved nine hours away from her previous location and become acquainted with new teammates and coaches, only for her first-year eligibility waiver to be denied.
Around that same time, Murr suffered a season-ending injury just weeks before the Bulldogs opened play. While serving as one of three team captains, Murr felt useless.
"How am I supposed to be a captain when I can't practice, I'm not doing the hard work they're doing?" Murr wondered.
In the wake of personal adversity, the two roommates didn't need to look far to find answers. In the pain of a lost opportunity, they needed each other most.
"I think that was huge for me to learn that it's okay to not be okay," Brown said. "For the longest time I've been the person that I want everybody else to have to lean on me. I'm the one that wants to take care of everybody.
"That was one of the biggest stepping stones, for me to learn and to trust Kendall, to have somebody else that has my back and takes care of me for once."
And so similar circumstances brought together two young women with very different personalities.
"That bond of wanting to be on the court so bad brought us so close," Murr said. "We were completely understanding of each other in ways that the team wasn't. We got to spend time watching from the outside in and spend time together talking volleyball, not playing volleyball, but also growing our friendship and understanding each other in a different way."
Together on the sidelines, Brown and Murr may have learned more about their teammates than they would have playing alongside them. They said that they could analyze individual emotions, reactions and other details because they didn't have to focus on their own on-court experiences.
"There's so much that you miss while you're on the court," Murr said. "When you have someone that's by your side that's seeing the same thing, and you can talk about it, you learn how you can be a better leader on the court because you're seeing people's struggles and seeing what they need."
As a result, a greater friendship and connection developed between the program's two captains. Brown and Murr's mutual appreciation has taught them to function in a way that brings out the best in each of them for the benefit of their teammates.
The 2019 season challenged Brown and Murr, but it turned out as a blessing in disguise. Their experiences gave Mississippi State volleyball a pair of captains that know what it means to love each other, love the sport, love the program and love their teammates.
"We want to give it everything we have because we didn't get to do that last season," Murr said. "After the pain and the hurt that we experienced, I'm ready to pour out on my teammates and on my coaches and the game of volleyball."