It’s Miller’s Time! 2019 Hernando County Player of the Year

Jolie Miller                                                                                                                                                                    Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

GIRLS TENNIS

Reaches rugged 3A-5

district finals at No. 1

singles and doubles

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Players of Year in any athletic endeavor typically stand out.

Most, however, are never freshmen.

F.W. Springstead High’s Jolie Karis Miller is one of those rare exceptions.

Jolie Miller

Miller, who recently turned 15, was an integral part of the Lady Eagles’ unbeaten Hernando County champion 12-0 season in 2019.

The leggy 5-foot-6, 112-pounder, created a niche in perhaps the most arduous positions on the tennis courts: at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.

It takes a special type of personality to be any team’s top player, but to endure the pressure of performing at a constantly high level against everyone’s else’s finest – isn’t a strong suit for most.

So, welcome to Miller time!

The blonde-tressed tennis dynamo played in just enough district matches (4) this season to be eligible for post-season play.

The middle of three children to Brooksville’s Frank and Cherie Miller captured all four to advance to the rugged Class 3A, District 5 Tournament along the tricky clay courts of the Jonesville Tennis Center in Alachua County.

To the astonishment of many, Miller reached the district finals in singles and in doubles along side partner Aszti Chadzinski.

Though Miller departed without hardware – she settled for second place – she walked away with a ton of respect.

The area coaches recognized her hard work and overall efforts by naming her to the 2019 All-Hernando County Girls Tennis Team.

But that’s not all.

The way she conducted herself both on and off the court at such a tender age caught the mentor’s attentions and she was further feted as Player of the Year.

Jeanette McDonald
Grace Curren

So, how rare is anointing any freshman as Player of the Year?

Over the last quarter century – spanning a generation of players – only two other county freshmen were named: Central High‘s Jeanette McDonald in 2004 and Hernando High’s Grace Curren in 2013.

Year 1 Rewind

In Year 1, the Brooksville-born and raised Miller finished 6-1 in singles – besting Hernando County’s 2017 Player of the Year Sierra Remondelli of NCT, 6-0, 6-0 – only losing in the Class 3A, District 5 finals to Gainesville High senior Aminah Moffett, 6-1, 6-1.

In doubles, Miller/Chadzynski reached the 3A-5 finals at the Jonesville Tennis Center in Gainesville before losing to Gainesville’s Moffett/Olivia Bryant.

The Eagle duo finished 6-1 in doubles.

Yet, it wouldn’t be justice to label Miller just a tennis player.

She’s an outstanding student/athlete as a member of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at SHS.

She maintains a 4.0 unweighted and 4.2 weighted grade point average.

Kim Palmer

In describing the tenacious Miller, “Jolie is like the quiet terminator … She’s very polite and intelligent,” explained Springstead’s fourth-year skipper and the reigning Hernando County Coach of the Year Kim Palmer.

“…But the moment she picks up a racquet, it’s like magic … Forget her age … She’s got skill and talent … She’s not overly exuberant … She plays with a sense of quiet confidence … In Year 2, I’d like to see her demonstrate a little more patience and maturity to her game … It’s great to see her when she paces herself … She needs to be a little more relaxed.”

Kristine Brown

“A complete, solid player” added Nature Coast Technical’s Kristine Brown. “Great placement shots … She’s fundamentally sound … She’s got the game to fit Player of the Year.”

POY Reaction

Upon hearing the news of being named Player of the Year, “I didn’t know the context,” shared Miller. “I am very proud of myself. It’s a nice honor. It means a lot.”

On where Miller goes from here, “This (honor) is something you have to work toward. Getting it as a freshman means I have to work that much harder to defend.

“… When I walked in this year, nobody around here knew who I was, but I’m proud of my work. The keys for me are to continue to get better and reach states. Because of this, I’ll have a target on my back, so beginning next year will be different.”

Springstead’s Jolie Miller.                                                                                                                                   Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Retracing her roots

Jolie inherited some athletic DNA from her parents.

Her mother was a gymnast and her father played football and tennis.

But Miller’s first organized sport was on the pitch in soccer.

At 3 years old, she didn’t finish the season.

Next arrived a stint with baseball.

After playing in the outfield, but baseball wasn’t in her cards.

She recalls picking up a racquet for the first time at eight years old.

She did it originally on the behest of her father. She hasn’t stopped since.

In middle school, she attended Challenger K-8 and played tennis as a sixth-grader.

She was so talented, she was the team’s No. 1 player.

But Miller transferred to tiny Academy at the Lakes in Land O’ Lakes for her seventh- and eighth-grade years.

Problem was the Wildcats offered no tennis program.

To get physically and mentally challenged, she joined the IB program in Spring Hill at Springstead.

In 2019, she gravitated to her primary sport: tennis.

Why a passion for tennis?

In explaining her passion for tennis, “It’s a universal sport,” shared Miller. “You can play it when you’re young or old. The sport is known around the world.”

On what motivates her, “This is gonna sound kinda cocky, but I like leaving the court knowing I’m the better player.”

Though she’s 15, she’ll play in either U-16 or U-18 tourneys to improve her USTA standing.

“It’s hard getting to the top,” quipped Miller. “But I’m playing older kids to get challenged. When I was young, dad had to drag me to courts; not any more.

“There’s different sections of my game I could improve on,” noted Miller. “I’ve gotten better on my mental game.”

Her favorite part of tennis is attacking.

“I love coming to the net,” stressed Miller. “Most girls don’t like coming to the net. I want to be the first to make a move.”

Reviewing Year 1, “I thought the season was pretty easy,” emphasized Miller. “I was always at practice. Coach (Palmer) indicated which (district) matches I needed to play in.

“Normally, in warm-ups I could tell right away what type of match was coming.”

“When I lost to Moffett (in the No. 1 district finals), she was a very good player,” insisted Miller. “There are some things I could’ve done better, but she was a senior.

“…After the match, we spoke. She was impressed that I was only a freshman. And spoke about how good I’d be by the time I was a senior.

“… If I had a regret, it’s that we didn’t play them (Gainesville) during the regular season. I would’ve loved to played her once before facing her in districts.”

Doubles with Aszti

Aszti Chadzynski

Miller says she easily bonded with Chadzynski in doubles.

“The chemistry was there,” underlined Miller. “She played very well. What was odd was we didn’t play much until mid-way through the season.

“I’d say I was a little more aggressive, but she always hits nice volleys. We probably didn’t practice together as much as I would’ve liked.”

On climbing the ladder of success, “I’ve been working on strengthening my game,” said Miller. “At this point, I prepare for anything.

“I‘m trying to get stronger and really working on my endurance,“ shared Miller. “I have long, skinny legs. I work out of home trying to get stronger.”

In reinforcing her mental game, “I’m at my best when I don’t think and just react.” stressed Miller. “The key is keeping calm and just relaxing.

“I usually do that the best through my breathing and working on different tactics,” Miller said.

Future goals

On her future goals, “As a sophomore, I’d like to see us reach regionals, maybe even states,” shared Miller.

“Right now, the summer is pretty hectic with my family schedule.

“I know I’ll continue to take lessons at Saddlebrook in July once the schedule opens back up.”

On whether Miller would add an additional sport, “Tennis is my best option before anything else for my future,” she stated.

By the Numbers: Springstead’s Jolie Miller (2019)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

SINGLES (6-1)

 

OPPONENT

 

SCH

 

RESULT

 

Hannah Durham

 

OF

 

W 6-0, 6-0

 

Emily Kintzele

 

OV

 

W 6-1, 6-0

 

Julia Xavier

 

LEC

 

W 6-1, 2-6, 10-5.

 

Sierra Remondelli

 

NCT

 

W 6-0, 6-0

 

Hannah Durham

 

OF

 

W 6-0, 6-0

 

Lauren Tidwell

 

SL

 

W 6-0, 6-0

Aminah Moffett

GAIN

L 1-6, 1-6

DOUBLES (6-1)

 

OPPONENTS

 

SCH

 

RESULT

 

Conner/Hnem

 

CEN

 

W 8-0

 

Durham/Murray

 

OF

 

W 8-0

 

Javier/Karanan

 

LEC

 

W 8-4

 

Remondelli/Reji

 

NCT

 

W 8-0

 

LEC

 

W 6-0, 6-0

 

OV

 

W 6-2, 6-1.

Moffett/Bryant

 

GAIN

 

L 1-6, 1-6

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