The St. Paul coach had just won the school’s first-ever state championship with an undefeated season, and she was so confident that was it — she threw away all of her coaching materials.
That was 15 years ago, following the 2002 season.
On Thursday, 12 years after her return to the bench in 2006, Miller unofficially became the 24th coach in Ohio history to achieve 500 coaching wins. The Lady Flyers (11-0, 8-0 Firelands Conference) — ranked No. 1 in the latest Division IV state coaches poll — blasted host Plymouth by scores of 25-8, 25- 5, 25-6.
Halfway through her 25th season — all at St. Paul — Miller has a record of 500-118 (.809).
“I never saw myself ever coming back, I really didn’t,” Miller said. “I threw everything away and ended everything, that was it.
“But I love the game and love being with the kids,” she added. “I’m very … I’m highly competitive. It’s just a great place to be, in the gym with the kids.”
Through 24 full seasons, St. Paul has won 15 FC titles and 23 sectional championships under Miller. The Lady Flyers have won seven district titles and have made four trips to the state semifinals during Miller’s tenure, culminating in two state championships (2002, 2006) and two runners-up (2007, 2009).
In all, Miller’s teams have gone 17-5 at the regional and state level, and are 310-34 in FC matches. An average season under Miller is a 21-5 record.
“It’s not me as much as it is the players,” Miller said. “I’m just the person on the side who has been blessed with amazing family support and a school that supports me in everything I want to do and change — and girls who 100 percent buy into what we want to do. It’s a lot of work.”
In Thursday’s win, Kamryn Maxwell had 12 kills, and served 17 points with four aces. Kennadi Stang had 19 points with seven aces, and Lauren Chandler had 10 points with two aces and 10 digs.
Also for St. Paul, Rachel Bleile had 36 assists and 10 digs, while Meghan Hedrick had 11 kills and Tess Lepley had eight.
“I wouldn’t want to be coached by anyone else,” Lepley said of Miller. “She’s the best coach I’ve ever had, and I owe everything I’ve ever done in this sport to her. She’s taught me so many things not just in volleyball, but throughout life. I’m so proud I can be one of her players.”
Lepley said Miller’s best attribute is her passion for the sport and the ability to bring out the best in players.
“Yeah, she’s a tough coach,” Lepley said. “But every second that she’s hard on you is because she knows you can be a better player, and she sees your potential. She’s not a coach who is just mean to you because she gets mad at you. She’s tough on you because she wants you to be more.”
It’s been a big week for the Lady Flyers, who moved up a spot in the state poll to achieve the No. 1 ranking in the second weekly poll. Now one match into the second half of conference play, it was clear following Thursday’s result that Miller’s team isn’t content.
After pulling out a 29-27 win in Game 3 to sweep South Central on Tuesday, St. Paul allowed just 19 points total vs. the Big Red. For the season, the Lady Flyers are 30-0 in sets.
“We were talking about not being complacent with the girls just the other day — and to play to their potential,” Miller said. “But all of these accomplishments, it’s all the hard work they put into it. How many other teams get up four days a week all summer long for two hours at 7 a.m. and put the amount of time that they do in the weight room and the gym?
“And when you walk into our gym for a home game and see everything that goes on and all the support we get from the families — it’s really just so much,” she added. “That part is amazing.”
From the immediate area, Miller joins the 500-win club with Norwalk’s Grace Hutchinson (552), Huron’s Don Wood (525), a Norwalk native, and Clyde’s Nancy Hanger (516).
“I have such appreciation for those coaches I’ve watched and worked with and under,” Miller said. “Grace Hutchinson, Nancy and Don — and I could just keep listing coaches I have so much admiration for and learned so much from. That started a long time ago. There’s so much that goes into it. Just so much.”
St. Paul entertains Monroeville on Tuesday.