Having played as a member of both the Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team and the Canadian women’s national volleyball team throughout her time in university, Julia Murmann — a fourth-year health studies and human geography student — has had her fair share of experience balancing time between schoolwork and athletics.
Despite her busy schedule and recent return from China for an Olympic Qualifying Tournament only several weeks prior, Murmann maintained a composed and collected demeanour throughout her interview with The Varsity. Now, as a team member on Canada’s national women’s volleyball team, her sights are set on a greater goal: the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Path to success
Murmann’s interest in volleyball began early, and so did her success in the sport. When she decided to begin playing on a team at age 11, she could only try out for a general under-13 age group, where many players were older than her. Nevertheless, she earned a spot at Leaside Volleyball Club in Toronto. “I always played an age group older, which was really cool,” she explained. Her volleyball career continued throughout high school, where she was named female athlete of the year four times.
When it came time to apply to universities, U of T was an easy choice. “I live really close to [U of T] so I would always [participate in] their academies growing up… I always liked the coaching staff and environment here,” she recalled. “It was always one of my top picks.” Meeting Blues Head Coach Kristine Drakich and the team confirmed that U of T was the right choice for her, and she committed to the team at the end of Grade 10.
Murmann continued to experience success as a member of the Blues, being named U of T Women’s Rookie of the Year, U SPORTS Rookie of the Year, and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East Rookie of the Year in the 2021–2022 season. As an outside hitter, she led the team with 3.44 and 3.18 kills per set in the 2021–2022 and 2022–2023 seasons respectively.
Murmann’s elite athleticism and skill have also led her to play beyond the intercollegiate level. In 2021, she was selected to play as an outside hitter and libero on Canada’s Next Gen Team, a training team for younger athletes to develop into the national program, and later began playing with members of the Women’s Senior A Team.
Her experience competing internationally has brought her to various countries around the world, including the 2019 Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) U18 World Championships in Egypt, the 2021 NORCECA (North, Central America and Caribbean Volleyball Confederation) Championships in Mexico, the 2021 Pan Am Cup in Puerto Rico, and the 2023 FIVB Volleyball Nations League competitions in Türkiye, China, and Thailand.
Olympic qualifying tournament
Most recently, Murmann competed with Canada’s national team in the 2023 FIVB Women’s Volleyball Olympic Qualifying Tournament in China. Although they maintained a strong 5–2 record, Team Canada fell just five points short of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics, ranking 11th and sitting just outside the 10th qualifying spot.
However, Murmann remains hopeful about the team’s ability. “Despite being just short of [our goal], I think we had great moments, and I think we can build off of that next year.” The team’s next opportunity will be at next year’s Volleyball Nations League tournament, where they hope to earn enough world ranking points to qualify for Paris 2024.
Murmann also looks forward to furthering her academic and athletic endeavours at U of T. As a part of a strong and competitive team, she has her sights set on making playoffs and playing for an OUA gold. Beyond her undergraduate career, she is considering pursuing a Masters in Public Health.
Murmann also hopes to play professional volleyball overseas, and credits U of T with providing her with support throughout her athletic career. “I have such strong support staff and coaching staff, and I think being part of this program is going to serve me well… to help me achieve my [pro career] aspirations.”
Despite her many future aspirations, Murmann also emphasizes the importance of being present in every moment. “I think it’s really easy to lose sight of what you’re doing, [whether it is] focusing on one game at a time, or being present in practice.” She advises other students to enjoy the process of working toward a goal, beyond the prospect of the final outcome.
Although Murmann’s focus shifts back to playing with the Blues’ volleyball team for the remainder of their season, there is no doubt that her future in volleyball on the international stage is promising.