Miller aiming to conquer the beach |

Miller aiming to conquer the beach

Local high school student to compete at Junior Olympics

Park City High School student Brie Miller left poses with her partner Elise Porter after the duo took home first place in the U16 division at the AVP First National Qualifier event at Wasatch Beach in Salt Lake City last weekend. Miller will compete at the AAU Beach Junior Olympics in Santa Monica next weekend.

Not many athletes in Park City — a hub for winter sports — aspire to become the next great beach volleyball player.

That, however, is exactly what Brie Miller wants to be.

"It's difficult playing beach volleyball here, because the only courts we have are at City Park and Willow Creek," said Miller, who is a soon-to-be sophomore at Park City High School. "There's some other ones, but you don't really get that same feel as you would out in California."

The Golden State is where Miller frequently visits to keep up with the many friends she has made through the sport of volleyball. The volleyball community is a tight-knit one, and Miller claims no matter how big or small an event is, she typically knows at least one familiar face at the various competitions.

The most recent tournament she competed in wasn't far from home, however. Miller participated in the AVP First National Qualifier event at Wasatch Beach in Salt Lake City last weekend. Miller and partner Elise Porter, who attends Bingham High School, took home first place in the U16 division, winning the championship match 21-14, 21-9.

The duo's dominance was visible throughout the two-day tournament, as it didn't drop a single set. Though competitive, Miller was simply having a good time, she said.

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"It was so fun," Miller said. "Beach volleyball, in general, is just a fun sport because everyone is there watching and you have the music playing there in the background. It's just a really nice vibe because everyone is having fun."

In addition to the lack of venues available for playing time, another disadvantage to being a beach volleyball player in Utah is the shortened season. Snow can cover courts all the way up through May, while tournaments in California start up in late March or early April.

Miller's opponents in the Golden State have a distinct advantage when the local product makes her way to certain tournaments.

"Brie only has from mid-June through late July to attend tourneys and clinics or camps in California," Miller's mother, Lisa, said. "That’s only five weeks compared to the 40-plus weeks girls in California get."

The lack of practice time hasn't stopped Miller from finding success.

The win at Wasatch Beach gave the pair a bid to the AVP First Championships, which will be held at Hermosa Beach, California, next weekend. Miller also qualified for the AAU Beach Junior Olympics earlier this season with a different partner. The problem is both events take place the same weekend, so Miller chose to compete in the Junior Olympics in Santa Monica.

After competing in the U15 division there, Miller and her partner will turn their attention to the Utah State Beach Volleyball Championships.

While her main focus is fun, Miller does have goals she hopes to achieve during her prep career. She trains with Club GSL in South Jordan, one of the area's elite volleyball programs. She also expects to have an impact with Park City High School's indoor volleyball team in the coming years.

"That's the best way to keep up, [getting in] my reps," Miller said.

After her time as a Miner concludes, Miller hopes to extend her career to the collegiate ranks. Most college programs are focused on indoor, but many schools, including nearby University of Utah, have recently added beach teams. For some, beach volleyball is used as a springboard to bolster indoor teams, but that's not the way Miller sees it.

"I would love to play at the college level, for beach or indoor," Miller said. "I'd prefer beach, but if I have to play indoor, I will. I just want to get there."

Miller is looking at schools from California to Florida, "really any school that has a beach volleyball team," she said. She hopes, one day, to qualify for a national team, whether that be beach or indoor.

In the end, it's Miller's love for the sport that keeps her going. As long as she's playing, Miller is content, though she prefers the grains of sand in between her toes and the wind running through her hair.

"I love volleyball, in general," Miller said. "But I just love the beach feel."