When she signed her Letter of Intent for volleyball with Albion College in the spring, Ami Milligan talked about how her leadership and good communication skills would be advantageous to the Britons.
It hasn't taken very long for Milligan to show the Britons how strong a leader she is.
Milligan, a former Alpena High volleyball player, joined Albion this fall as one of five freshman setters for the Britons. By the end of the season, Milligan emerged as Albion's top setter, led the Britons in assists 447 (4.43 per set) and was named their Most Improved Player.
Courtesy Photo/Albion College
Albion freshman Ami Milligan serves during a match this season. Milligan, a former Alpena High volleyball player, emerged from a group of five freshman to become the top setter for the Britons this season. She led Albion in assists and named their Most Improved Player and had a career high 28 assists in a match against Olivet in October.
"I think it went really well. I thought I improved a lot," Milligan said of the season. "I started off as the No. 2 (and I) worked with the hitters and learned what they wanted so I could become the No. 1."
Milligan shined as a three-year starter for the Wildcats, finishing her high school career as the school's all-time leader in aces and assists. As a junior she also broke the school record for assists per game.
If this year is any indication, Milligan is well on her way to a stellar career with Albion too.
As the tallest of Albion's freshman setters at 5-9, Milligan had a sizable height advantage, but ultimately impressed Albion coach Kristin Slamer with her ability to work hard and learn quickly. The speed of college volleyball is faster than the pace of high school volleyball and the offensive sets are more complex. Milligan responded well to the quickened pace of college volleyball and her ability to run offensive sets well.
"She's the most coachable player I've ever coached," Slamer said. "She made some changes right away and we asked her to make some changes that were a lot to ask of a freshman."
The Britons run a 6-2 offense which utilizes two setters and Milligan eventually became Albion's top setter late in the season after spending time with the Britons attackers and learning how to put each of them in the best spots to be successful.
"We really relied on her to be a leader. She responded to the speed of the game, adjusted and adapted to that really well and she really started to click with attackers and she has a really high volleyball IQ," Slamer said.
While Milligan had a strong year individually, she was also part of some big team moments this season even though the Britons finished 6-22. In September, the Britons beat Adrian in five sets to earn their first Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association win since 2009; a victory in which Milligan had 18 assists.
In early October, Milligan dished out 12 assists in a four-set loss to Calvin College, the eventual Division III national champion. Though the Britons lost, they were the first MIAA team to take a set from Calvin.
Later that month, Milligan recorded a career-high 40 assists in a five-set loss to Olivet.
With three more years to play at Albion, Milligan will be able to grow individually, but will also have the chance to further build chemistry with her teammates. She was one of 15 freshman on this year's squad and the team's top two attackers Halle Thom and Lauren Outwater will be a junior and sophomore next season respectively.
"I have three more years and I'll have a lot more experience," Milligan said. "Our team was young, so we have a lot to grow on and I'll have three more years to work with this class."
As is the nature of college athletics, there's always the possibility that some of Albion's incoming freshman next season will challenge for spots in the starting lineup.
Having done that as a freshman, Milligan knows the importance of working hard to keep her spot and plans to spend the offseason working on her upper body strength and perfecting her technique, which changed quite a bit after working with Slamer.
"I think it's important that we all work hard coming into next season," Milligan said. "The next recruiting class knows that they can come in and be starters."