Elkhart Memorial's Tori Mills has learned to become more vocal in her fourth season as a volleyball starter
ELKHART — Tori Mills may not be the most vocal player on the volleyball court for Elkhart Memorial High School.
But the fourth-year starter has learned to embrace her role as leader while using her lips to get her point across.
"I'm more vocal than I used to be, but some would say I'm still pretty quiet," says Mills, a senior setter for coach Jacquie Rost's Crimson Chargers. "(As teammates,) we have a lot of respect for each other, so they respect when I have something to say."
With prodding from the coaching staff, Mills began to come out of her shell in 2013 and that take-charge attitude has ramped up even more as the 2014 season has unfolded.
"It's definitely something she's had to work on," says Rost. "It's a little bit out of her comfort zone to be 'The Voice.' As a junior, she became a lot more comfortable with it. This year, she's a different leader on the court."
Rost sees in Mills a student-athlete who is very conscientious about doing things right and has expectations for her teammates and her coaches.
"I want to make sure I'm always prepared so I'm pushing Tori to be the best because she's that kind of an athlete," says Rost. "She's not going to be outworked. That's kind of her mentality."
Mills, who first played for Rost as a sixth grader on the 14U travel circuit for Shank You Volleyball Club (now Northern Indiana Volleyball Association), credits the coach for teaching her about being a teammate and leader.
"To be a teammate, you have to learn to trust each other, help each other get better and be accountable," says Mills, a captain for Memorial in volleyball and track as a junior. "(As a leader, you) push your teammates to reach their potential."
Rost has watched Mills grow not only as a leader, but as an athlete.
"She is — without a doubt — one of the best volleyball players in this area," says Rost of someone who has also earned three track letters. "She's one of those special kids that coaches are just grateful to have. She's very genuine and incredibly humble. Athletically, she could probably do anything."
It was mostly in a back-row defensive role that Mills played as a freshman while learning the pace of high school varsity volleyball and apprenticing for the No. 1 setter spot behind then-junior Paige Newvine (who is now a sophomore setter at NCAA Division II power Southern Indiana).
Now, Mills is doing essentially the same thing for up-and-coming sophomore setter Krystal Grubb.
"She's been a tremendous support and kind of an inspirational leader for Krystal," says Rost.
As the season unfolds, Rost may call on the athletic Mills to do more attacking and give more setting duties to Grubb.
In a recent five-game win against mighty Marian, Rost shifted Mills to set out of the middle while also helping more with blocking duties.
Mills stands 5-foot-6, but Rost says she plays like someone much taller.
While she is still exploring her college options, the middle child of Memorial graduates Scott and Pam Mills (Derek is older and Isaac is younger) plans to study accounting and finance.
"I've always been better with numbers than other things," says Mills, who credits Memorial teacher Rodney Donigan for getting her interested in accounting and money management.