Q&A: Final Sitdown With Volleyball Seniors
#MGVB Seniors Discuss Historic Final Season, Legacy
DENTON - The winningest class in program history. The program’s first two-time all-region selection. The only player with 1,000 kills, 600 digs and 250 blocks. These are just a few labels that belong to the North Texas volleyball graduating seniors.
Amanda Chamberlain, Holly Milam, Mikali Myers and Alexis Wright have cemented themselves as one of the most successful classes in the 42-year history of the program. Along with a .646 winning percentage, the group led the team to its best-ever hitting percentage over a four-year span (.242).
A pair of their 84 wins stand out and occurred within the last month of their careers. On November 9, Alexis Wright recorded the match-winning kill against Western Kentucky to give North Texas just its second win over the Lady Toppers in program history and first since 2008. Three weeks later, each of the seniors played a role in a four-set victory over Oral Roberts for the program’s first postseason victory.
Following a season-ending loss to TCU in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), Chamberlain was named to the AVCA All-Southwest Region team, becoming the program’s only two-time all-region selection after earning honorable mention honors in 2016. Milam, the school’s only player with 1,000 kills, 600 digs and 250 blocks, was named honorable mention all-region.
For the second straight year, Chamberlain and Milam were named First Team All-Conference USA, and Wright picked up her first all-conference nod on the second team. In 2017, Chamberlain and Wright combined for four C-USA Offensive Player of the Week awards.
The four sat down for a final Q&A to summarize their time at North Texas and discuss their record-breaking final season, the coaches and the future of the program.
Start by telling me what you have to say about your time at North Texas.
AW: "My time here has been very memorable. There's been a lot of ups and downs, but I would do it all over again if I could. I couldn't have survived it without these three and all my other teammates."
AC: "It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I'm sad that it's over, but I'm still happy that I made so many memories with such great teammates. Coming in, I didn't think I would make lifelong friends. Volleyball has brought me so much more than awards and championships."
MM: "You always hear what college is supposed to be like and all the things you're going to learn, but I think I underestimated how much I learned about myself and getting along with others. In your hometown, a lot of people are the same, so to get close to people you didn't even think you'd click with is awesome."
HM: "It's the hardest four years I've ever been through, but also the most rewarding. The first three were a struggle with ups and downs, but this year was such a fun year. There are so many memories to take away from this year. We gained a family through it all, too."
Go back four years, when you set foot on campus. What were your expectations?
AW: "I was really nervous, because I only had three best friends at home. It's really embarrassing, but in my first week I'd sit in my room crying because I didn't think anyone would like me like my friends back home. Now my teammates are basically my sisters."
MM: "I had no idea what our schedule was going to be like. I remember getting up at 5 a.m. our first summer, and all the fall sports had 6 a.m.'s, so you'd hear everyone moving around. There was so much comradery, because we were all dying. We were all shook before shook was a thing. I tried to go in without any expectations and think it wouldn't be that hard, but I had no idea."
What match was most memorable and why?
All: “The win against Western Kentucky this year.”
AW: "Every year we played them, even last year when we got swept, it was really close. We were never scared of them, but this was the first year we were actually playing for something. We had reached all of our other goals before that, so we had to do it. I couldn't stop smiling for three days."
AC: "I would always play so bad against them and I don't know why. I played awful in the first set, and it was just like here we go again. I got better, and then we won, which made it even sweeter. To share it with these girls in our last season was something to remember."
MM: "I think I cried a couple times, even during the game. It was so cool, because it was senior night and we were playing for number one. It was the most pressure you could have in a single match. The environment was electric. It was like a movie, because everything happened like it needed to. I've never thought about a match so much. I woke up in the middle of the night Tuesday thinking, 'it's tomorrow.' I wanted it to be that day, but I also wanted it to be in like two more weeks."
HM: "The best part was getting to celebrate it together on the court and talking to each other in the locker room about how much it meant and how everyone played a role leading up to it."
How awesome was it to have a historic year and set so many records in your last go-round?
AC: "As an athlete, you always want to come in and set records and win awards. It's great and all, but you never know how big it is until you do it. As freshmen, we came in starting and were asked to play big roles. To have that pressure on us from the beginning and look back on it, I can tell my kids, 'your mom and her friends were champions.' I had never won a championship. I always came close, but never actually did it."
HM: "You don't know what to expect when you come in. Every year, we worked on making our culture a little better. The entire team bought into it this year and it just all came together."
AW: "We had a lot of big goals, but they weren't all the records we were breaking. We just wanted to have a good culture and be there for each other on and off the court. We just wanted to be good teammates and win a championship, and everything else just came with it."
What kind of impact did the coaches have throughout your four years?
AW: “They helped us grow closer as a unit. Pali always talked about how we’re here for the wins and championships and all that, but after it’s over, we’re going to remember the friendships and bonds. That’s one thing I really liked about them. They weren’t the type of coaches that’re all business. They cared about our relationships and our experiences as North Texas volleyball players.”
HM: “They could be a little crazy, but they played a big role in our success this year. In the spring, Pali asked the captains, ‘what can I do to give you the confidence that you can do it? I have that confidence in you, but I want you to have it too.’ Just hearing that from him helped us gain that confidence and motivated us to play hard.”
AC: “I loved that they had an open-door policy, so if you wanted to talk to them about anything, you just go in there, grab some candy, sit down and talk. We hear about players in other programs that never talk to their coach or go into their office unless they’re in trouble. He did a good job of putting you as a person first.”
Alexis is most likely to…
MM: “…bang a ball to the 10-foot line and then hit the next one to the back wall. She had one a game.”
AC: “…be late, because she slept in.”
HM: “…call someone out.”
Amanda is most likely to…
HM: “…send a free-ball into the stands. You do it so confidently too.”
AW: “…get on the aux. DJ A-MAN was on the aux all four years.”
MM: “…binge-watch a TV show. She was up until 4 a.m. once watching a show.”
Mikali is most likely to…
All: “…fall asleep.”
AC: “During film or really any situation.”
Holly is most likely to…
All: “…remember anything.”
AW: “She has a really good memory.”
MM: “It’s a little freaky.”
What will you miss most about the team?
AW: “Making people mad and getting on people’s nerves whenever I want. Those times in the locker room when we talk about all the hard stuff. Obviously, playing and competing.”
AC: “Grinding it out with each other. Even when everyone’s running eight shuttles, we still come together as a team and didn’t turn our backs on each other or something.”
MM: “Our dance parties in the locker room. We look at other teams and we’re like, ‘there’s no way they’re as fun as we are.’ Every person is unapologetically goofy. It’s rare to have so many people together that are like that and not have one person who feels like they can’t be themselves.”
HM: “All the little moments that bring us together and the road trips.”
What will you miss most about Alexis?
AC: “How she gets on everyone, even me, but I know she wants the best for you and for everyone.”
MM: “She’s my music person. We’re always sending each other songs.”
HM: “Having someone to push you to always be better.”
What will you miss most about Amanda?
AW: “Getting all the kills that literally no one could touch, and the two times a year when Pali yells at her, and she gets so mad and gets in the zone.”
MM: “All the random stuff we do that other people would think is weird. We took our senior headshots and hung them in our living room with candles in front of them. It’s normal for us. I’ll miss having someone who won’t question all the weird stuff I do and join in.”
HM: “She’s one of the sweetest people ever.”
What will you miss most about Mikali?
AW: “How we laugh about the stupidest stuff and our weird voices. Her making fun of me when I hit a ball to the back wall.”
AC: “She’s my roommate, so she’s going to be missed the most, even though she annoys me half the time. Going through life with her has been a journey. Coming off the court and seeing her so happy for me and being my biggest fan.”
HM: “Having that mom friend.”
What will you miss most about Holly?
AW: “Watching her play and being a part of her volleyball journey. I’ve seen her grow a lot, especially with her personality. She was a really shy person, but now she’s never scared to stand up for something or voice her opinion.”
AC: “Her persistence and her quiet dance moves. No one ever sees them.”
MM: “She’s so resilient. There’s no one I trusted more when she was serving or anything like that. We’d be down five and it’s set point, and I’m just like, ‘it’s Holly, we’re good.’ Even off the court, she’s so caring. She doesn’t half-do anything.”