Sierrah Miller was nervous, enough to bounce negative thoughts in her head about how good she really was on the volleyball court. The Pitman High freshman was given the opportunity to play at the highest youth level via her club team, the Ripon Rage.
“I didn't want to play at first,” she said. “I was talked into it.”
Yes, it's true that it wasn't her idea to jump from the area league to the power league. “The transition is like going from Triple-A to the pros,” said her dad, Wes. But Sierrah eventually agreed and now, she's the only Turlock athlete who will participate at the Junior Olympics in Reno in June.
True story: Volleyball became Sierrah's second sport just two years ago, when she was a seventh grader at Dutcher Middle School, with her time there leading to two team MVP awards.
These days, she's training to play with the nation's best youth players, all while playing on the Pitman varsity girls soccer team. It's all happening after she listened to various coaches in her short volleyball career. The list includes Pitman freshmen coaches Paola Inman and Shawne Arnold and varsity coach Kristen Pontes, who all recognized the potential in the 5-foot-8 left hitter.
The coaches were right all along.
At the Far Western National Qualifier in Reno during the weekend of April 16, Sierrah was part of a Rage team that won 20 of 21 games, and captured the championship over a squad that was favored to win it all. The run earned the Rage a bid at the Junior Olympics. And Sierrah played a key role, finishing with 37 kills, three blocks, one ace and four digs and led the Rage with 10 kills against a team from Texas.
None of this would have happened if it wasn't for some convincing.
“It took a little prodding,” said her dad. “But she saw that it would get her so much better for school volleyball.”
Club volleyball is known to be more competitive than at the high school level, with players tending to be more focused on their respective travel teams. But Sierrah is determined to improve by the time her sophomore season rolls around in the fall.
Last season, she played a preseason match with the Pitman junior varsity team before the practice schedule conflicted with Sierrah's time, forcing her to move down to the freshmen squad, which went on to win all but one match. She then got promoted to varsity for the postseason.
“At one of her high school matches,” said Jenifer Miller, Sierrah's mom, “the referee approached Pontes about Sierrah and thought she would be a good fit for the Rage Volleyball Club in Ripon. The team for her age group was looking for a hitter. She attended a couple Saturday clinics and decided to try out for the team after talking with the coach for the team as well as Pontes.
“Pontes encouraged her to take the opportunity and join the team.”
Again, it was quite a leap from Sierrah's days on Team Magic, a Turlock-based club team, under Pontes. Sierrah considered her time then as more “fun.”
But now, things have gotten a little more serious.
And Sierrah is just fine with that.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.