JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 10 2017) – A bond between an athlete and a coach is a unique experience like no other. Not everyone has that type of relationship like ETSU head coach Lindsey Devine and the lone senior on the ETSU volleyball team, Rylee Milhorn.
A Kingsport, Tenn. native, Milhorn began playing volleyball in the second grade, but playing in college wasn’t always her idea, until she entered high school.
At Sullivan South High School, Milhorn was named to the TSWA Class AA All-State Volleyball Team and the State Tournament Most Valuable Player during her senior season. She led Sullivan South to the 2013 Three Rivers Conference, District 1-AA, Region 1-AA, and State Class AA Championships. Ranked as the fifth best volleyball player in the state of Tennessee, it was obvious that Milhorn wanted to be a part of the ETSU volleyball program.
“Rylee was born and raised in the Tri-Cities area, so I have seen her grow up,” said Devine, the 15th year head volleyball coach at ETSU. “Her Colonial Heights Middle School team participated in our annual Buccaneer Middle School Tournament each August. Back then, she was a physically strong dual athlete competing in volleyball and track. As I watched her develop in high school and in club, and then having conversations with her, I knew that she was exactly the type of student-athlete I wanted to be part of the Buccaneer family.”
Milhorn said coach Devine was part of the reason why she came to ETSU.
“I knew I wanted to play for ETSU because it was close to home and I wanted to play for coach Devine,” said Milhorn. “She has coached me since I was 13 years old, and I wanted her to continue coaching me.”
Milhorn got her wish and began her freshman season for ETSU.
“I was very nervous being the only freshman on the team,” said Milhorn. I felt like if I made a mistake, they would all yell at me. Coach put me in two-man serve receive and I was terrified playing all the way around. Coach knew me and put me on the court for a reason.”
As a freshman, Milhorn was a key contributor to the team. Milhorn said the girls on the team were very welcoming and helped her adjust to the collegiate game. Her hard work paid off as she was named to the So-Con All-Freshman Team. She played in all 32 matches, while starting 30, totaling 227 kills, 260 digs, and 53 blocks.
“Rylee came in as a freshman and was an immediate impact player,” shared coach Devine. Four years later, she continues to be the player you want handling crucial situations.”
Teammates are an important aspect of sports. They are the people you spend much of your time with when in season.
“Coming in my freshman year, my teammates welcomed me with open arms, and I felt like I could talk to them about anything,” said Milhorn. “Over the years, I’ve become closer with my teammates and broke out of my quiet shell. My teammates have pushed me to be the best I can be on and off the court.”
Milhorn, now a senior, was named first team All-Socon her sophomore year and was named to the SoCon All-Tournament team as a junior. Throughout her four years, Milhorn has built a lot of great memories, but some of her best moments come from coach Devine.
“I love it when coach Devine has trouble saying things and it comes off different,” Milhorn said. “The team and I don’t know if we should laugh or not, but in the end we laugh and coach laughs with us. It’s gives us a break from practice or games and allows us to have fun.”
Coach Devine shares that she loves Rylee’s personality traits.
“I love that Rylee is a country girl. She loves to wear cowboy boots and camo,” said coach Devine.” She can shoot a gun a drive a tractor.”
During her senior campaign, Milhorn recorded her 1,000th career kill against Saint Louis Sept. 9 at the Holiday Inn-University Plaza Invitational. The following weekend, Milhorn reached her second career milestone when she recorded her 1,000th career dig against Radford at the Hokie Invitational.
“When I set those milestones, it was a great feeling because I’ve worked so hard throughout my career and it’s an honor to be a part of that club.”
During Milhorn’s career, the Bucs have posted successful seasons, which includes winning the 2016 SoCon regular season championship. Milhorn hopes to go out on top again this year in her final season in the blue and gold.
“It’s very important to me to win the conference tournament this year because we are getting closer and closer each year. We have the talent to achieve that goal.”
On top of those career achievements, Milhorn has earned Preseason All SoCon honors, was named to the Appalachian All-Tournament team and the Holiday Inn-University Plaza All-Tournament team, earned back to back Tennessee Sports Writers Association Volleyball Player of the Week awards, named the SoCon Offensive Player of the Week during the week of Sept. 25 and recorded a new personal best of 24 kills against Radford on Sept. 15.
When she’s not on the court or in the weight room, Milhorn spends the rest of her time working towards her degree in Early Childhood Care with a minor in Family Studies. Even though she’s not student teaching yet, Milhorn actively observes children’s interactions and pays attention to how they learn.
“I love interacting with children and I’m excited to become a teacher one day,” said Milhorn.
Not only does Milhorn want to teach in the classroom, she also has aspirations to become a volleyball coach. Milhorn already has coaching experience, she’s been doing so the last four years.
Sometimes it can be hard juggling being a student and an athlete with demanding schedules and always being on the go, but Milhorn hasn’t had a problem with it.
“Balancing volleyball and school is hard, but it’s my job. I just have to make sure I work ahead of my school work, so when we leave for games, I don’t have any homework to do. I try to work on my homework throughout the day and have practice and weights at night.”
Milhorn has thrived on and off the court at ETSU.
“Playing for coach Devine has been a blast. Her and I are on a different level than the rest of the team. This is because she’s coached me since I was little and she knows how I do everything. She pushes me to be the best I can and knows all I can give. Coach makes sure I’m doing well in my classes, and most importantly, she’s like a second mother to me. I can tell her anything at any time and she’s always there for me.”
Milhorn has impacted the team and the ETSU volleyball program.
“It’s been very rewarding. To see how she has matured both as a person and player is very special. Don’t be fooled by her quiet and calm presence as she is a fierce competitor,” concluded coach Devine.
Fans can watch Milhorn on the court one final time inside Brooks Gym as the Bucs host Wofford Saturday at 2:00 p.m. With the Bucs on a roll and a SoCon championship in the near future, ETSU is prying to be a contender next weekend in Cullowhee, N.C.