Sarah Miller is becoming a leader.
Despite the fact the freshman Central Lakes College volleyball player earned Minnesota College Athletic Conference Northern Division player of the year honors, and helped the Raiders to a 22-7 record and a deep playoff run, Miller realizes there is work to be done.
When asked about the play of the NJCAA Division III All-American nominee, CLC head coach Jane Peterson said, “She was someone who came in this year with a lot of experience. She has a great instinct for the ball, which is hard to teach.”
The Brainerd High School graduate came into this season with two years of varsity play under her belt, but was unsure of her role on the Raiders’ team at the start of the year.
“She was someone who came in with a lot of experience but figured out that she still had a lot to learn,” Peterson said. “Once she discovered that, she really improved. It didn’t take very long for people to start respecting her.”
Though Miller collected several awards, neither her, nor Peterson, would rush to say that she was a full-time leader for the Raiders.
“She was starting to become a leader midway through the season, and will be considered one next year,” said Peterson.
“To be honest,” Miller said, “I’ve never really wanted to be the leading type. I fought against the idea of being one, but as the season progressed I realized it was the best thing for my team. It was no longer about me, but about my team.”
Miller spent the season playing the libero position, otherwise known as a defensive, or serve-receiving, specialist. The position does not yield a lot of stats, but Peterson acknowledges a libero’s play goes beyond the stat sheet.
“There’s no place to record the kind of stats she records,” said Peterson. “Our team as a whole was a great serve receiving team that didn’t allow a lot of aces, and Sarah was a big part of that.”
It’s not as though Miller’s statistical resume was completely blank in 2012. The freshman finished fifth in the division in digs with 382 in 98 games.
When asked how a player who did not put up huge stats managed to be player of the year, an award determined by MCAC coaches, Miller’s response was humble and confident.
“I think the coaches voted for me because they saw me play,” she said. “It’s funny, though, because I don’t have to do so much at my position because we’re a great blocking team.”
Miller was appreciative for being named division player of the year.
“It’s really cool that even though we didn’t go to nationals this year, the coaches think so highly of me,” she said.
CLC’s season ended with a 3-0 loss to Northland in the Region 13B championship match.
“Our team had the potential to be really strong, but I think there was a lack of confidence at times and that turned out to be detrimental to us,” Miller said.
Staying near your hometown to play college sports is not always a popular choice for area athletes, but it was the choice Miller made when she signed to play for the Raiders.
“I’ve known Jane for a long time, and I’ve played Junior Olympic games here, so it was familiar,” Miller said. “I also wanted to stay close to home so I could just focus on developing my skills.”
Miller is excited about the prospects for the 2013 season.
“We’re returning some really good players,” she said.
That seems to be the farthest the libero is looking into the future. She has hopes of playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2014.
Miller appears to be easing into the leadership role.
“I hope I can be a leader,” she said of 2013. “After this year, I want to help by being somebody my teammates can look up too.”