After the devastating defeat in last year’s Division-III National Championship quarterfinals, sophomore setter Whitney Miller experienced a sense of sorrow, but at the same time hope and patience to get another crack at a National Championship with Moira Long’s team.
Miller, the daughter of Lindsay and Robert, grew up in a small town in upstate New York. Cuba, her hometown, granted her opportunities like no other, but most importantly the chance to learn the sport of volleyball from Volleyball Hall of Famer, Sally Kus.
“Coach Kus followed me all the way up to high school,” Miller said. “She made me learn to love the game and everything about it.”
Coincidentally, Miller’s passion for the game didn’t just arrive in the palm of her hand. Instead, she joined modified volleyball games as a joke, and essentially that is where her devotion for volleyball originated.
The second-year player compiled an impressive resume throughout her young career, competing on six club teams, most noticeably Niagra Frontier and Cuba-Rushford high school, where she became a two-time section MVP in New York and a selection to the New York State All-Star second team.
Miller played well in her first year at Springfield College, but the Physical Education major usually split time with fellow freshman at the time and now sophomore, Molly Giannattasio. In the 2010-11 season, Miller recorded 525 sets and 94 digs.
Now in her second year with the Pride, Miller is filling in comfortably as a potential every game starting setter for Long’s squad. With one year under her belt, Miller has been expected to step up as a leader due to the fact that a setter is the operator on the court and runs the offense.
“I really want the team to become one as a family and be on the same page,” Miller said.
Sprinkled around returning players like senior middle blocker Mary Consol, junior outside hitter Tessa Smolinski, and junior defensive specialist Lindsay Runge, Miller has the weapons around her to succeed and balance on each side of the floor.
“Whit balances the game very well on the inside, because she knows the right kind of energy to bring at the right time,” Consol said. “From the outside, Whit knows how to read people very well, especially if she’s watching you play.”
In the duration of this early season, Miller has tallied 278 assists and 46 digs within 37 games. But ultimately her attitude and energizer bunny-esque presence impacts every game she appears in.
“Whitney brings a ton of energy to the table,” Long added. “That is definitely one of her strengths, the fact that she can come in and get the team rolling. She really brings a lot of fire, which we love. She brings a lot to our team in terms of mental attitude and really brings it every game.”
With roughly a half of the season left on the remaining schedule for the Pride, Long envisions improvement across the board, especially in Miller.
“We expect her to develop every day, whether it is footwork or decision making,” the second-year coach distinctively addressed. “She recognizes what she needs to improve on.”
Improvement transcribes into progress and the Pride right now are 8-3 overall and 2-1 in NEWMAC play. All expectations considered, the women’s volleyball team must stay consistent, which entails communicating on the floor and staying together as a group.
Ultimately, the combination of Miller’s play on the floor and her demeanor as a teammate can translate into not only a successful year for her, but also a successful year for the defending NEWMAC champions.