UAF volleyball

The University of Alaska Fairbanks volleyball team huddles before its final games of the season.  Hart Pisani/News-Miner

The University of Alaska Fairbanks closed out its abbreviated 2021 volleyball season with a two-game series against the University of Alaska Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.

The Nanooks lost both of those games (3-1 on Friday and 3-0 Saturday), but the attention wasn’t on the final score, the final season record (5-6), or even the final game of the year. The focus was on the final outing in senior Markie Miller’s volleyball career.

While Miller is one of five seniors on the Nanook volleyball team, the other four have all committed to returning next season, taking advantage of the NCAA eligibility waiver for this season. Miller, however, has committed to moving on from college and volleyball, but not from the classroom. She plans to become an elementary school teacher this fall.

Miller was celebrated before the match with a video presentation, flowers, balloons, and a lot of teary eyes. Head coach Brian Stewart’s eyes were still wet when talking about Miller after the game.

“This is a hard day to lose Markie,” he said, fighting the lump in his throat. “Mark gives everything she’s got every day. I love the kid. From the moment she walked in the door there isn’t a person that hasn’t felt welcomed when they come to this program ... She embraces and accepts everyone. Everyone feels welcome because of Markie ... We’ve been lucky and we’ve been blessed to have Markie for four years here.”

Miller ends her UAF career with 523 kills in volleyball. She also played on the women’s basketball team and has collected a lifetime of memories.

Seniors Lahra Weber, Cate Whiting, AveRee Reynolds, and Emily Moorhead will return for an additional year of eligibility. Many other talented players will make their return next season, including Zoey Keene, Dani Dodge and Rilee White. The Nanook volleyball program should continue to grow and be fun to watch next year and in the years to come.

Ask Stewart, assistant Megan Woods, or any player on the team, and they will all tell you that the mark Miller leaves on the program will be felt moving forward and contribute to all of that success.

“This has been the best experience I could ask for,” Miller said fighting tears of her own. “I transfered here and when I came on my visit I just thought of it as a chance to go to Alaska. But once I came up here it felt like a family and then everyone did become my family. I’m just so thankful to have been able to spend the past four years here. I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and my teammates.”

Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/Hpisani91.