Delanie Miller had no problem flashing her confidence throughout her four-year tenure at Turner Ashby as the team’s starting libero and defensive anchor.
The former Knights volleyball standout was the face of the program and someone that Gina Troyer called the “heart and soul of our defense” throughout last season.
But things have changed for Miller, she said, and while you wouldn’t know it based off her production, the Eastern Mennonite University freshman is focused on her mental toughness.
“We have a thing that talks about giving 90 percent and the other 10 percent is mental,” Miller said. “I want to improve my mental game just because if I mess up, it’s OK.”
In her first season with the Royals, Miller said miscues have definitely happened at times.
That’s expected from freshmen as they adjust to the college level, and Miller admitted there are a lot of aspects to the game that changed since her time with Turner Ashby.
“Right now, the pace is a lot faster,” Miller said. “I’m still getting used to the ball coming back. You never know when it is coming back. Another big thing for me is different types of serves coming at me. Instead of just the lollipop serves of high school, it’s now high-top spin or really hard float serves. That’s a big thing I’m getting used to.”
With the Knights, Miller was known for her hard-nosed, do-whatever-it-takes attitude defensively and was able to get to most of the balls sent to TA’s side of the court.
At EMU, however, the hits coming across the net from the opposing team are a lot harder and traveling much faster and that’s forced Miller to not try to do as much on the court, she said.
“Honestly, just trusting the other players is a big thing,” Miller said. “At TA, I was taking most of the serve-receive balls and things like that. Now, it’s like, ‘OK. This is not my scene. The other person has got it.’ Just trusting my teammates is a big thing.”
Playing volleyball at the college level wasn’t always on Miller’s radar, she said, as she originally just wanted to go to school and focus on studying in her major of biology.
But when Miller was approached by fifth-year Royals coach Carrie Bert about playing at EMU while still achieving her academic goals, she said it was a situation she couldn’t turn down.
“Delanie has brought unmatched energy and fire to our team,” Bert said. “Her play is as electric as her personality. She has quickly earned the respect of coaches and teammates with a willingness to ask questions and ability to cover the court defensively.”
Miller joins former area standouts Tori Wigley (East Rockingham), Bethany Shultz (Eastern Mennonite) and Andrea Troyer (Broadway) on the Royals roster.
Since being named coach of the Royals in 2015, Bert said she has tried to recruit as much local talent as possible and it’s paying off this season during EMU’s 6-2 start.
“The chemistry on the team is really good,” Miller said. “We all get along. When someone messes up, it’s OK. No one gets mad at anybody. We all teach each other from our mistakes. You don’t just have to ask the coaches for help. You have other players on the team that you can ask and they can help you.”
Wigley and former Wilson Memorial standout Hannah Johnson are among the players Miller said have helped her the most with her transition and she’s noticed the progress.
“I’ve honestly improved so much from when I first came in, but the pace of the ball is just hard to get used to,” Miller said. “Trusting everyone around me is still a big thing as well.”
Having her family at home contests is an added bonus of playing at EMU, Miller said.
“It’s a big deal to me,” Miller said. “I always like having my family in the stands and they are planning to come to every game. It feels good to have that much support.”
The former Turner Ashby standout finds herself in a challenging situation when it comes to the depth chart with three other defensive specialists — all of which are older and more experienced — also vying for playing time this season.
Despite that challenge, Bert said she’s been thrilled with the way Miller has played so far.
“Delanie shows a desire to compete for that playing time,” Bert said. “We are a better group with her presence and a more competitive team with her playing.”
In her time on the court this season, Miller has made the most of her opportunity with 57 digs and 10 assists as she has seen her playing time fluctuate throughout the year.
But Miller said she embraced the challenge of eventually establishing herself as consistent start for the Royals and when that day comes, she’ll be ready for the opportunity.
“You don’t have to get down on yourself,” Miller said. “It’s a different level so I have a little more anxiety before matches. So, I really just need to get my mental game down. Once I do that, I think I’ll be fine.”
Royals Feature Plenty of Local Talent
There’s no shortage of local talent throughout the EMU women’s volleyball program.
Johnson, a 2018 Wilson Memorial graduate, leads the team with 88 kills and 89 digs while also serving up 11 aces while Wigley has a team-best 135 assists.
Also chipping in for the Royals has been Troyer, who has been a solid all-around performer with 44 kills and 26 blocks this season.
Locals Shine For Bridgewater Golf
Several former area standouts helped the Bridgewater College men’s golf win its first tournament since 2012 on Monday at the Shenandoah Invitational in Winchester.
East Rockingham alum Jacob Laughlin, playing in his first event as an Eagle, finished with an even-par score of 71 to finish fourth among 78 competitors while fellow ERHS graduate Alex Czerwinski, who hadn’t played competitively since March, shot an 80-77.
Former Broadway standout Seth Smallwood finished with a score of 76 while 2019 Wilson Memorial grad Jacob Sears post 74-79 to finish in a tie for 11th.
East Rock Duo Back At It Again
Jaylen McNair and Javon Butler, a pair of former East Rockingham standouts, kicked off their junior seasons in style as Glenville State defeated Alderson Broaddus 33-21 on Saturday.
McNair was efficient through the air, completing 16-of-24 passes for 180 yards and a score while also running eight times for 31 more yards.
As for Butler, he finished with four catches for 35 yards and also had a carry for 2 yards.
Former BHS Quarterback At USF
Kirk Rygol transferred from Broadway before the start of senior year.
Now the former Gobblers signal-caller is listed as a sophomore quarterback at the University of South Florida after transferring in from ASA College — a JUCO program.
After transferring from BHS, Rygol threw for over 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns during his senior season at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, S.C.
Pair Of Locals Performing Well For EMU Women
Laura Rittenhouse, an Eastern Mennonite High School graduate, and Broadway alum Chloe Weaver are both playing a pivotal role for the EMU women’s soccer team.
Rittenhouse, a senior, has a goal and an assist for the Royals this season while Weaver, who is a sophomore, also has a goal and an assist. Both players have just one start.