Confident, driven and dedicated are three words that best describe Cali Miller.
Miller, from Waterford, is one of three seniors being recognized during Senior Night festivities this Saturday prior to the Warriors hosting Cal State Dominguez Hills at 7 p.m.
She’s the only four-year player on the current team and now the first four-year letter-winner under fifth-year head coach Mallori Gibson-Rossi.
During her time in the sport, which she has played since she was 11, Miller has taken on various roles on and off of the court. She has been a defensive specialist and an outside hitter and a leader, mentor, friend, big sister, and overall role model to other Warriors.
As a Warrior, Miller has not seen much playing time in comparison to her teammates. In fact, she has spent most of the past four seasons cheering from the sidelines, and that, perhaps, is what makes her the outstanding Warrior she is.
For someone without a lot of action on the court, it would be easy to become frustrated to a point that may lead to throwing in the towel. However, while Miller had experienced those emotions, she has remained dedicated to the program.
“I, of course, want to compete, but I have never once considered quitting,” she said. “I love volleyball and I would never give-up on my team. They are like my second family.”
Stanislaus State volleyball has gone through some major changes over the past few years, and Miller was there to experience all of its ups and downs since arriving on campus in 2016.
As a senior at Waterford High School, Miller was recruited by Gibson-Rossi to join the program. There were four other freshmen in that incoming Class of 2016 and Miller is the only one to complete her four-year eligibility. Other Warriors walked away from the game; some were transfers, some transferred away, but most of Gibson-Rossi’s recruits are currently juniors.
“Cali’s resilience is my favorite part about coaching her. She comes to practice each and every day ready to work and make an impact for our team,” Gibson-Rossi said. “She’s always looking for an opportunity, on and off the court, to encourage her teammates. No matter the role she’s given, she has taken them tightly by the reins and led by example.”
When she arrived as a freshman, Miller sensed tension between her teammates and coach, because Gibson-Rossi was just in her second season while the returning Warriors were facing transition. Many of the players were part of a 2-24 season in 2014.
While Miller saw the struggles her teammates were facing, she couldn’t fully relate because she was committed to competing for the coach who recruited her.
The attitudes of the athletes changed in 2015 during Gibson-Rossi’s first season when the program posted its first winning season since 2002 and appeared in the CCAA Tournament for the first time.
After consecutive tournament trips and the program’s first postseason win in 2016, another transition happened. A large graduating class and a big incoming group again changed the dynamics and playing levels of the 2017 team as the Warriors struggled to a 3-23 season.
However, Miller was present for these roller coaster rides and became a guiding factor for the team.
Miller’s teammates often looked to her for advice and guidance because of her longevity on the squad. She was looked upon as a role model, student, friend, family member, and overall individual. She works hard day in and day out and strives to earn the trust of her teammates. She genuinely enjoys helping them grow and succeed.
The team quickly rebounded and returned to the CCAA tournament in 2018 after a 16-11 campaign.
“Some of those years were tough, but I am grateful for the growth and the second family I’ve gained from being a part of this program,” Miller said. “I remember being scared, hesitant and overwhelmed as a freshman.”
Miller has become confident, driven and dedicated.
Gibson-Rossi, who saw Miller’s work ethic and character during the recruitment process, agrees: “She would get after everything and seemed to always have a positive attitude. She is always ready to receive feedback to help her improve and become the best she can be for her team.”
“In the last year, I have just seen her level of confidence grow tremendously,” said Gibson-Rossi. “Cali has one of the best attitudes, she always has a positive outlook on life in general, and not just in volleyball – which is refreshing to have in the gym.”
Miller, who will be a four-time CCAA All-Academic honoree, is graduating with her liberal studies degree in May. She will enter into the Stan State’s credential program next fall as she continues to push herself forward to becoming a third-grade teacher.
Haley Steele is a student assistant in the Stanislaus State Athletics department.