Sometimes coaches just know when a player is going to be good and what kind of success they'll have.
Alpena volleyball coach Melissa Doubek had that feeling about Ami Milligan right away.
"She's not quick, but she's quick. I've never seen a setter have the strong wrists that she does and she does have a lot of determination," Doubek said. "She was good in junior high, she stood out. I remember her as a 6th and 7th grader getting the all-camp award."
Those abilities that Doubek saw helped Milligan have a stellar three-year varsity volleyball career for Alpena where she set several school records.
Her talents caught the eye of Albion College too and she recently signed a Letter of Intent with Albion and will join the Britons' volleyball team in the fall.
"I think it's a rare opportunity and I'm glad I have the chance to do it, especially how the last three seasons have gone with Mrs. Doubek and the varsity team," Milligan said. "It wasn't anything I anticipated at all."
Playing college volleyball wasn't really in Milligan's plans until last summer when she attended a volleyball camp with the Wildcats at Saginaw Valley State University. There she made the all-camp team and impressed coaches with her abilities and her communication with players she'd never shared the floor with before.
When coaches started telling Doubek that Milligan could play at the next level, it was only a matter of time before she chose a school. She visited Albion in October and was immediately drawn to the small-town atmosphere, which reminded her of Alpena. Her campus tour guide, oddly enough, was a member of the volleyball team and Milligan got a chance to meet coach Kristin Slamer and watch the Britons play Calvin College.
Alpena JV volleyball coach Michelle Tippman had a contact at Albion and after Milligan's visit, she sent tape to Slamer and her staff and was later offered a spot on the team. Milligan plans to study bio-chemistry and pre-med and will be a setter for the Britons.
Being a setter on a volleyball team is an important position, akin to being a quarterback or a point guard, but it's a role Milligan flourished in for three years with the Wildcats.
"She's grown a lot since she was a sophomore on the volleyball team, in her confidence and her ability to lead others on the court," Doubek said of Milligan. "At first when she was a sophomore, when she was faced with challenges, she would get very frustrated and she just grew so much."
In her senior season, Milligan formed a 1-2 punch with hitter and close friend Brenna Bourdage and earned first-team all-Big North Conference honors and was also named to the All-Region Dream Team. She finished the season with 780 assists, 71 kills, 85 aces and 43 blocks.
She ended her career as Alpena's all-time leader in aces per game and assists and was second in career aces and third in aces in a season. In her junior year, Milligan also broke the school record for assists per game.
She was a two-time All-Alpena News Volleyball Team first team pick. She won the team's top server award in her junior and senior seasons and was team MVP in her senior season.
The Britons will be getting a player who's a top-notch server and uses her height to be a stellar blocker. She also communicates well and is able to run many offenses.
"I think I'll be able to provide leadership," Milligan said. "I'm usually very good at communicating."
Milligan said the Wildcats' family atmosphere was the best part of her high school career and Doubek admitted that a player of Milligan's caliber is going to be a tough void to fill next season.
"They're (the setter is) the quarterback, they've got to run the offense and it's going to be hard to replace Ami because after three years, she and I communicate without communicating," Doubek said. "She knows what I want and I know what she can do. I have to give her very little instruction on the court because she knows what she wants to do. She'll be able to do that at the next level too."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.