With the Ball State women’s volleyball season underway, first-year coach Kelli Miller is dealing with some typical concerns, such as replacing graduated players and figuring out the best starting lineup.
There’s one aspect of the new job, however, that isn’t a concern: filling the shoes of her highly successful predecessor.
“No one can be Steve Shondell,” said Miller, an assistant coach during Shondell’s six-year tenure. “Steve taught me so much, but more than anything, he taught me to be myself. He always insisted that I be my own person. And that’s how I am approaching things.”
Miller describes herself as highly competitive and always willing to be in the trenches with her players. Shondell, who racked up accolades during his time at Ball State and 30-plus years at Burris Laboratory School, couldn’t agree more.
“I’ve been around a lot of volleyball players and coaches during my career, and I can honestly say that Kelli is the most competitive one I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I am just very, very happy for her and happy for Ball State. She was a great choice for the job.”
Miller’s worked for three years with Mackenzie Kitchel, an outside hitter who said the team was ecstatic when Miller was named head coach.
“Kelli gets it,” said Kitchel, ’15, who is pursuing a master’s in emerging media design and development during her last season of eligibility. “She knows what it’s like to advance far into the NCAA tournament and knows what we go through as players. Our practices are tough under her, but she never asks us to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”
While Ball State graduated six players from last year’s team, and most were in starting roles, Miller doesn’t see this as rebuilding year.
“There are some outstanding players on this roster just waiting for the chance to show what they can do,” she said. “Among our goals are a MAC (Mid-American Conference) championship and an NCAA berth. If those aren’t among our goals each and every year, then why even suit up?”
Miller also was recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals, and PrepVolleyball.com named Ball State’s 2015 and 2016 recruiting classes to the nation’s Top 55 incoming classes.
“I’ve always believed that Ball State is an attractive option for volleyball talent, and the Midwest is a hotbed for volleyball talent,” she said. “We’ll always place an emphasis on recruiting our general area, but if there’s a player that we believe can really help us, we’ll go anywhere, at any time, and do our best to bring her to Muncie.”
The Miller File
- Spent the past six seasons as a Ball State assistant coach
- 2016 “Thirty under 30 Award” winner, American Volleyball Coaches Association
- Four-year standout libero (defensive specialist) at Purdue University
- Four NCAA tournament appearances at Purdue, including three trips to the regional finals
- Purdue’s all-time leader in digs (2,013) and digs-per-set average (4.05)
- Three-time Academic All Big 10
- Four-time All-State honors at Muncie Central High School