Update: Sydney Miller and her Vital Volleyball Club 17-1 Nike team competed in the 17 Club division at the 2015 AAU Girls' Junior National Volleyball Championships. They jumped out to a great start, winning their first six matches, before dropping one to Milwaukee Sting in three sets. After only losing two games in pool play, they advanced to the Red Division Bracket.
Her team had a long last day of volleyball, starting the day at 8am. They won their first match of the day in three sets against Kairos Elite 17 Alpha. They cruised to two more victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals to make it to the championship match against NIVA Volt. They defeated NIVA in two sets (26-24, 25-19) to become the Red Division champs, finishing 25th out of 115 teams in their division.
Congratulations to Sydney and her Vital Volleyball Club 17-1 Nike team!
Sydney Miller knows nothing comes easy. The Minneapolis, MN native, who attends Washburn H.S. and plays for Vital Volleyball Club, learned early on that if she wanted to play volleyball or participate in any athletic activities, she would have to fight through physical challenges.
At age 9, Sydney was diagnosed with a severe form of scoliosis. Options such as wearing a back brace and even the possibility of surgery were discussed to correct the curvature of her spine.
“After I was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 9, my volleyball future was very uncertain,” Sydney recounted. “I had to wear a back brace for 4 years, although there was no guarantee that it would fix my condition.”
The family chose to try the back brace option, hoping this would alleviate the spine issue without needing surgery. However, though Sydney wore a back brace for four years, it didn’t fix the problem with her spine.
Surgery became Sydney’s only option.
A 9-hour surgery was performed -- it involved securing her spine to two metal rods, each about one foot in length, to straighten the severe curvature that had accumulated since her diagnosis. Twelve vertebrae in the center of her back were fused into a single length of bone.
“When I discovered at age 13 that surgery was the only remaining treatment option, it meant that my life would totally change,” Sydney continued. “That I would be out of volleyball for at least a year if not permanently was a terrifying and depressing time for me.”
Sydney endured a lengthy stay at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and a longer period of rehabilitation that kept her out of volleyball for nearly a year. She credits family, friends and her love of volleyball in helping her to overcome this adversity.
“My family and friends really helped me through the long ordeal. My parents were always amazed to see my positive outlook and my desire to get back on the volleyball court. My passion for the sport motivated me to get strong and healthy again.” Sydney commented.
She battled back from the surgery and secured a position as setter for a local club 15-1 team and has never looked back.
During her junior year at Minneapolis Washburn High School in 2014, Sydney led her team in both assists and blocks and was co-winner of the Most Valuable Player Award. That same year, she helped her Vital Club team to the 2015 Minneapolis Northern Lights National Qualifier 17-American Division Championship.
Sydney is slated to compete with Vital Volleyball Club 17-1 as they look to bring home a title in the 17 Club Division against some of the best teams in the nation.
“I remember hearing about the Orlando AAU Nationals when I was younger,” stated Sydney. ”It always sounded like the best volleyball tournament in the country. I’m really looking forward to playing high-level volleyball against teams from all over and having a lot of fun along the way with my team.”
Recently, Sydney made a verbal commitment to play college volleyball at Northern State University in South Dakota, a NCAA Division-II school that ranks near the top of one of the most competitive D-II conferences in the country. This is a testament to the dedication and hard work she has exhibited since her scoliosis diagnosis.
When asked what she would tell people about her experience Sydney said, “I hope people can learn that even if you go to Hell and back there can be a bright side to a bad experience – if you stay optimistic. I had major spinal fusion surgery, which I think would have led many people in my situation to consider giving up on their dreams. But that was just not an option for me.”
For more on the 42nd AAU Girls Junior National Championships, visit aauvolleyball.org, follow @aauvolleyball on Twitter and Instagram or Like fb.com/RealAAUVolleyball. A schedule can be found here.
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