Two loves, one passion
Denali Murnan has been in love with soccer and basketball since the moment she first started at 4 years old.
After giving up basketball for almost two years, Murnan made the decision to become a two-sport athlete at UNLV her freshman year.
“I just missed it so much,” she said. “I knew I had to do it.”
Murnan started at UNLV playing center midfielder for the women’s soccer team, but as the semester progressed she realized basketball was missing in her life.
Before she had the chance to try out for the Lady Rebels, she suffered a concussion.
Lady Rebels head coach Kathy Olivier wanted Murnan on the team. After witnessing Murnan’s athletic ability, Olivier offered her the chance to try out for the Lady Rebels. It took two days before Olivier offered her a roster spot.
“We were struck with an injury bug that year,” Olivier said. “We needed more people. I went into practice and I was watching her run. She wasn’t beating everyone, she was killing everyone. She was very team-oriented and she was very supportive of her teammates.”
Now Murnan juggles two sports on top of a full class schedule. A typical day for her starts around 6 a.m. with rehab, followed by soccer practice until 10 a.m. Her afternoon is filled with classes before ending the day with basketball practice.
“It’s funny ‘cause if just you see me walking about campus, I usually am eating out of this [Tupperware container] with my hands while I’m walking because I don’t even have time to eat most of the time,” she said.
Playing two sports comes with twice the opportunities for bumps and bruises, but the most challenging aspect of being a two-sport athlete is self control. The first thing Murnan usually wants to do is eat dinner and go to bed, since she knows she has to do it all over again the next day.
Instead, she studies while she eats, making quick dinners that give her more time to focus on her homework.
“It gets hard, but you gotta stay on top of things,” Murnan said.
Murnan, who is usually a starter for the women’s soccer team, was redshirted for part of the season this year after breaking her arm.
She also had to sit out for a duration of her first year on the Lady Rebels due to a concussion.
“She’s had a lot of setbacks,” Olivier said. “But she still stays very mentally strong, like through the injuries and through disappointment. She’s just a really good person, and works really hard, and fits in with the girls. It’s great. We love her, absolutely love her.”
For Murnan, each sport has a certain aspect that makes the entire game more stimulating. For basketball, it’s the ability to change the game in a matter of seconds. With soccer, it’s being able to solve her way to victory.
“I was missing the ability to take over the game and to lead my team,” she said. “I love the ability to change the game right away.”
Being on two different teams has taught Murnan more than expected. The knowledge she has gained from both coaches is knowledge that she holds dear.
She can also apply the things she learns by being on both teams not only to her sports, but also to everyday life.
“It’s honestly a blessing, and amazing and I am so happy that I get to do this,” she said.