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MSUM's Walthall working around busy schedule to watch daughter, Spuds at state tournament

MOORHEAD-When Moorhead's Brooke Walthall was in third grade, she came home from playing volleyball at a local park district event in Iowa City and told her dad volleyball was her favorite sport. Chad Walthall, current Minnesota State Moorhead men...

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Minnesota State University Moorhead men’s basketball coach Chad Walthall will attend the state tournament on the first day to watch his daughter Brooke play before heading to Texas for his own games.David Samson / The Forum

MOORHEAD-When Moorhead's Brooke Walthall was in third grade, she came home from playing volleyball at a local park district event in Iowa City and told her dad volleyball was her favorite sport. Chad Walthall, current Minnesota State Moorhead men's basketball coach, was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Iowa at the time.

"Volleyball? Are you sure?" Chad said. "Not basketball?"

Brooke had made her decision. It was volleyball.

"I just love the team chemistry about it," Brooke said. "I love being with people, and the whole team aspect of it. I think that's really cool."

Chad has come to terms with it.

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"She just fell in love with the game at an early age back in Iowa," Chad said. "It seemed to come more natural to her. I'm proud of her for playing basketball too. We wanted her to stay active in multiple sports, but there's no question her true love is volleyball, and she spent more time in it and gravitated toward it."

Brooke knows when her dad is in the stands. She can hear him. He sits off by himself generally because the coach in him needs to be alone and digest the game.

"The coach never leaves you," Chad said. "You're a dad first. You're happy when she's happy. You hurt when she's hurt. That part is a little bit different. You always have your coaching hat on though. I can't really sit next to people. I really just want to watch and analyze the game as well as I can."

Moorhead is making its third straight trip to the Minnesota Class 3A state volleyball tournament. The Spuds will take on No. 3 seed Champlin Park at 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Xcel Energy in St. Paul. This will be the third trip to the state tournament for Brooke, but it will be the first time her dad will be in the crowd.

"It's awesome," Brooke said. "He had to switch a flight to stay and watch me at state, which is nice because it's a big deal for me and he knows that."

The last two seasons MSUM has had games in Oklahoma and Arkansas around the time of the Minnesota state volleyball tournament, so Chad didn't go. Brooke knows when he's not there.

"It's tough because I want him to be at those big moments I don't know if I'll get back, but I know that he watches the games and follows them on Twitter," Brooke said. "He does everything he can to be there."

Chad is going up to Minneapolis to see his brother after surgery on Wednesday, watch Brooke at 11 a.m. on Thursday and take the 3 p.m. flight to Texas to coach an MSUM game at 3 p.m. on Friday.

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"I said the heck with it," Chad said. "Life is too short."

Brooke came up to varsity as a freshman, and played in every set as a sophomore. She's been in every rotation this season and leads the team in serve receive, is second in aces, third in digs and third in kills.

"Her all-around play has been often overlooked, but she can come through in the clutch," Moorhead coach Char Lien said. "This was evident in the last play of the section final versus Willmar when Brooke unleashed her timely offspeed kill that landed right in the middle of the court that left all the Willmar defenders stymied.

"Speaking as a parent of athletic children, who also coaches, you have to make some tough choices, but you have to put your family first. She knows that he is her biggest fan. And when he had tears in his eyes, as she received her section first place medal, you know that he is one proud papa."

Chad has home games scheduled for MSUM next season around the state volleyball tournament for Brooke's senior season.

"Guess he has a lot of faith that we will return to the big dance again," Lien said. "Wish I was that confident. I told him he better do anything he could to get there this year, as there are no guarantees."

The dad in him is confident. The coach in him, however, knows better than to jinx anything.

"As a coach, I know I must be out of my mind to be doing that," Chad said.

Murphy has covered sports in Chicago, Minnesota and North Dakota since 2009, working for The Forum since 2012. Contact: cmurphy@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5548
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