The women’s volleyball team has overcome the challenges of the season with the help of their middle blocker, Julianne Miller. Recognized as the leading freshman player on the team, Miller has the most kills (264) and blocks (105) this season.
Looking forward, Miller said she is eager to continue looking for opportunities to better her skills as an individual and as a member of the team.
However, on a team that is predominately freshmen with nine of the 14 girls playing their first year of NCAA D-II volleyball, there have been some growing pains. The Cougars are currently 12-13.
“Though we won’t be making it to playoffs, there’s still a goal that we need to succeed for ourselves,” Miller said. “We need to get these wins to prove to ourselves that we can do it because we can and we have the ability.”
With only four games left in the season, all at home, the team can close out their season with a winning record at or above .500.
The Camino, Calif. native developed a love for volleyball in high school. She started playing in the fifth grade, but spent the majority of her time playing soccer. Coming from a soccer family, she thought she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her siblings. After feeling burnt out and recognizing the lack of love she had for the sport, she transitioned to volleyball.
Miller played freshman, junior varsity and varsity for two years in high school before making the leap to APU. She attributes much of her success to her coaches who worked to develop her skills despite her late transition to the sport.
“I’ve never had any coaches [try] to tear me down, which was great and I’m blessed for that,” Miller said. “[I have just had] coaches who really helped me to succeed.”
Noticing Miller’s skills during recruitment, head coach Chris Keife was eager to welcome her onto the team.
“Coaches look at skill, so skill is the thing that caught our eye the most. She was very skilled [even] as a sophomore,” Keife said. “We knew that she could keep improving from her junior year to [her] senior year, and even into college as well.”
On Nov. 2 against the Academy of the Art, Miller recorded a total of 10 kills and five blocks, keeping her among the leading players on the team. As middle blocker, she plays three rotations that blocks on both sides. Putting her skills to work, she scored a total of 13.5 points. In a challenging season, Miller said their win was a breath of fresh air.
“We put point after point for the most part,” Miller said.
With good character and a positive attitude, Miller has been recognized as a team leader on and off of the court.
“She’s energetic, she’s feisty on the court and she brings this passion to the game,” sophomore setter Danika Young said. “She carries herself well all the time.”
With a team consisting of mainly freshman players, Keife is looking for leadership. As a player with a good work ethic and passion for the game, Miller has developed an on-court presence for the team that Keife believes bodes well for the future of the program.
“She’s one of our threats on our team and she has done very well in that role,” Keife said. “We know what Julianne is going to bring to the table every match. We know she’s going to compete and get us kills and hit at a high efficiency as well.”
Miller had a career high performance against Fresno Pacific on Nov. 5, where she notched 22 kills with a hitting percentage of .559. She added five blocks on the night. Her performance against Fresno Pacific earned her Freshman PacWest Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.
The Cougars will play their next home game on Friday, Nov. 11 at 6 p.m. against Hawaii Pacific.