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Leah Miller follows mom's path to Ridgewater College

Michelle Miller, right, warms up before a Willmar Community College match in this 1987 photo. Tribune file photo1 / 2
Leah Miller has been a hit with the Ridgewater Lady Warriors for two seasons. Here she swats for a point against Anoka-Ramsey on Sept. 17 at Willmar. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton2 / 2

When Ridgewater College sophomore Leah Miller was born, it was inevitable that she would grow up to play volleyball for the Lady Warriors.

After all, her mother, Michelle, gave birth to her in between her freshman and sophomore year at what was then Willmar Community College. And Michelle's labor coach, Val Swanson, just happened to also be her volleyball coach.

"Val was the first one to see Leah after she was born," said Michelle. "Even before I saw her."

Swanson, who retired as coach three years ago, recalls that day in 1988.

"I told Michelle that Leah was destined to play volleyball after that," laughed Swanson. "And it came true."

Leah and her Ridgewater teammates are gearing up to today's NJCAA Division III tournament today in Rochester (See separate story on Page B-1).

Miller, a 2007 graduate of BOLD High School, is a 5-9 sophomore hitter. She has amassed 199 kills, 240 digs, 46 ace serves and 38 ace blocks this season for the Lady Warriors.

"Leah is a very versatile and determined athlete," said Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth. "The type of player where you don't need to question her effort because it's always present. She's very passionate about volleyball and playing competitively."

Michelle (Miller) Hagen, a 1987 graduate of Buffalo Lake-Hector, was also a hitter for the Lady Warriors. But her strength was her defensive prowess.

"She was an excellent back row player," said Swanson. "I see a lot of similarities in Michelle and Leah."

After giving birth to Leah, Michelle returned to the volleyball team for the 1989 season. She later coaches a Buffalo Lake-Hector Junior Olympic volleyball team in the early 90s. She is now a registered nurse at the Renville County Hospital and Clinic in Olivia. She was married three years ago.

Does she give Leah any advice on volleyball?

"Not really," she laughed. "She does okay on her own. She had a ball in her hand when she was one, so I knew was going to be a volleyball player."