Tiny Palmer Trinity School in Miami, Fla., isn't exactly a pipeline to Division I athletics. Miami senior Ciara Michel graduated in a class of just 80 students and was one of very few in her class to compete at the college level. Despite being overlooked for that reason by many, Michel earned a scholarship to play with the Hurricanes and has become an all-conference caliber player in her four years there. She was named to the Preseason All-ACC team for the current season, was Second Team all conference last season, and has several Miami records to her name.
How did you get started playing volleyball?
In seventh grade, I wanted to be a cheerleader and that didn't work out. So I went with volleyball. I played through middle and high school, and played club for a few different teams. I played for the South Florida club team with my sister when I was younger, and then on the Boomers 17-18 team.
What is your greatest accomplishment as an athlete?
Just making it and getting a scholarship to a Division I institution. My high school wasn't the most athletic, and only two in my graduating class went on to play sports in college. My high school was small - I graduated with only 80 kids in my class - so getting this chance was really cool.
What is it like playing every day in a conference like the ACC?
It's exciting. I like it and enjoy it! It makes us work harder to get better when we have good competition to play against.
What do you still hope to accomplish?
In volleyball, our team would really like to finish strong in the ACC and make it to the NCAA tournament. We haven't been to the tournament since I've been here and I'd really like to see that before I leave. In life? There's a lot of things! Playing volleyball after college would be awesome, but it is not necessarily guaranteed. We don't have an NBA or NFL for volleyball! I also want to go into advertising.
Is there a quote that stands out from one of your coaches?
Our coach is really funny and he says a lot of funny things. One of the things that he has been saying this year is, "Be a grizzly bear!" He tells us to be grizzly bears on the court! (laughs). It's really funny, and every time he says it, it makes me want to play my best. I'm not sure where he got that, but it works.
Who is your most influential role model?
I don't really have a specific role model. There have been a lot of people who I could say have done awesome things and I respect, but I don't really have a role model where I say, "This is the person I want to be like."
What is your most memorable moment in sports?
We played Florida State last year and we were down two games to nothing. We were just playing awfully. We went back into the huddle, and I don't know what happened, but something just clicked and we went back out there and beat them in the next three games. After that second game, everyone was expecting us to lose, and it was a TV game so there was extra pressure. We came back and won. It was such an awesome feeling because nobody in the gym expected it, I don't think our coaches expected it. We just turned it on. That was just an awesome, awesome game.
Is there anything in particular that you are taking away from your career at Miami?
Definitely some really good friendships. I met some awesome people being here, and I've had some great experiences. I know everyone kind of says that, but with my team, there's just something about us. We always have fun, no matter what we're doing. We laugh, we joke, and every road trip is so much fun. I would say that's the most important thing to me because that's what I'm going to remember day-to-day, the experiences and the friendships.
What would be one piece of advice you would give to someone looking to play college sports, or volleyball in particular?
I would say... drink milk! (laughs). I don't know - I don't want to be clichéd and say, "Work hard!" so let's go with "Drink milk."
Why did you choose Miami?
The other two places where I took an official visit were the University of Connecticut and Georgetown. I chose Miami because I really liked the team and coach when I met them. It's also warm here. I'm definitely a warm weather girl! I own just one sweater. We're going to Boston this weekend and my coach said to bring warm clothes. I told him, "I have one sweater to my name!" so I guess that will have to last me the weekend! Miami is also close to home, which I didn't think I wanted at first, but it's been for the best.
What are your plans for after graduation?
That is THE question. I want to get out of Miami. Even though I love Miami, I want to go somewhere different because I've been here since high school. Probably California, so I'll stick with something warm. I need to get some new experiences under my belt.
Ciara Michel and the Hurricanes head north this weekend for conference tilts at Boston College and Maryland. Their match at BC tonight (10/12) tips off at 5 p.m., and the contest at Maryland tomorrow (10/13) starts at 7 p.m.