Texas men's volleyball plays in honor of fallen teammate

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“I think the biggest thing that he did was that he took the time to befriend every single person,” head coach Elbert Ortiz said of former player Michael Purgason, who died in a car accident this past summer.

Purgason joined the team as a freshman about three years ago and was the president of Texas Men’s Club Volleyball. He seemed to have an everlasting charisma and a passion for volleyball that his teammates plan to honor this season and in many more to come.

“What’s really special about this season is that we lost one of our teammates, and he loved volleyball with all his heart,” middle blocker Julian Perkins said. “If he could major in volleyball, he would do it. So we definitely keep him in the back of our minds all the time and just play hard for him.”

As a fifth-year senior in his fourth semester with the team, Perkins is surprised at how strong of a team they have been, especially with all of the new players this year.

“He’d probably be the number one motivation,” Perkins said.

Two years ago, the team won the conference and last year only fell to Texas A&M. In hopes of winning the conference again and making a run at the national championship, the team’s fallen member is undoubtedly an inspiration.

“He had such a pride for the University,” Sammy Ramos, Texas Men’s Volleyball president, said. “He motivates us to go in and work hard every single day.”

Although the men’s first team lost to Houston in the semifinals at this past weekend’s Octoberfest tournament in San Marcos, the team’s future seems promising with the vision that Purgason left them.

“I think this group has come in, and they’ve already set a legacy,” Ortiz said. “But I think his passing has added extra fire and extra motivation that they want to honor his own legacy by making this year, which would have been his senior year, one of the best years we’ve ever had.”

Ortiz has coached both men’s and women’s volleyball for about 14 years. After coaching for two years for the women’s club team, where he claimed a national championship, he moved to Washington, D.C., and has coached the men’s club team since his return in 2008.

“On a lot of men’s teams, the players feel like they’re getting scrutinized by their teammates and that they have to behave a certain way,” Ortiz said. “We finally broke down a lot of those barriers, because we had somebody special enough to help us get over that.”

Purgason’s outgoing personality was only one of many things for which his teammates remember him.

“He contributed such an intensity,” junior outside hitter Chase McKinzie said. “He’s one of the guys that started getting people riled up in games and would be so into it. He created that kind of passion for us.”

As one of the captains for the men’s first team, McKinzie said he sees quite a difference in the team’s attitude this season.

“This year we have a lot more confidence in our ability to play competitively,” McKinzie said. “We all loved Michael’s intensity. That’s how we all started getting into this passionate mode that we’re carrying on this year, and that’s our biggest attribute. We loved his attitude on and off the court, and we’re living through it right now.”

Purgason’s legacy does not only shine through his teammates this season but will be honored in many seasons to follow, McKinzie said.

“We devoted our season to him, and we want to continue that,” he said.

In honor of Purgason, the team wants to rename the Adam Prinz Invitational, currently named after another alumni who died during his season at UT, to the Prinz-Purgason Invitational.

Printed on Friday, October 26, 2012 as: Texas dedicating season to lost teammate