Julie Milbrand smiled when asked if she knows all the lyrics to the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
“I have never heard that song,” Milbrand remarked.
One of the most popular songs by the iconic musician who rose to stardom in the 1970’s, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” pays homage to the state of West Virginia. The place that Milbrand will be calling home for the next four years.
On Nov.15 Milbrand, a North Tonawanda High School senior, officially signed her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball for Alderson-Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia.
“It’s definitely a relief,” Milbrand said after signing during a ceremony inside the NTHS Library.
“After so long of finding colleges, searching colleges, talking to coaches, sending videos and making videos. It’s really a relief and I’m really excited and I’ve been looking forward to this day since freshman year.”
A member of the varsity team for five years, Milbrand helped the Lady Jacks win two Niagara Frontier League titles. Continuing her career at the collegiate level was always part of Milbrand’s plan. But as her varsity career continued she soon realized that playing well was only part of the journey. As she got older Milbrand realized the importance of highlight videos as a way showcasing her skills to college coaches. Something that ended up being much more involved than Milbrand anticipated.
“It’s a lot more work than people would think,” Milbrand said.
Planning on majoring in biology, Milbrand said that Alderson-Broaddus provides the right fit academically as well as athletically.
“It’s a health-science school and that was my No.1 priority. How good their biology program is and how they have a 100% acceptance rate into medical school and I wanna go to medical school,” Milbrand said.
“It’s a small campus which is perfect for me. The girls (on the volleyball team) are just really open and fun.”
Flanked by her parents, Diane and Keith Milbrand, Julie was also joined by her older brother Mitch (NT Class of 2011) who was part of the Jacks 2009 Class AA state championship football team, her twin brother Patrick, and Lady Jack volleyball coaches Jessica Anderson and Katie Harrington.
Julie’s older sister, Emily, a member of the Class of 2012 who helped NT win sectionals in 2009, was unable to attend. But did make it to almost all of Julie’s games. Reflecting on her journey through the Lady Jacks program, Julie remembers being a seventh grader wanting to play varsity along side her big sister. And how Emily would bark at her to not even get up early for morning tryouts that August, because she wasn’t going to make it. Though Emily was gruff at times, Julie knows deep down her sister always believed in her and being tough on her was Emily’s way of pushing Julie to be her best.
Putting up impressive numbers during her career, Julie Milbrand exits NT with 847 kills, 638 digs, 260 blocks and 192 aces. But those who know Julie Milbrand best will say it’s not the numbers, but her character that stands out the most. Coach Anderson said she has no doubt the way Julie carries herself as a person was a big reason why Alderson-Broaddus wanted her so badly.
“That’s not something you can coach. Either a kid has that or they don’t,” Anderson said.
“It just speaks for herself. She knew what she wanted to do from the time that she came into high school. She knew she wanted to play college volleyball and she never wanted to jeopardize that. She knew the (college) coaches would be checking her Facebook, checking her Twitter to see if she was posting dumb things. Looking to see if she’s posting (inappropriate pictures), but she’s never put herself in a position where there is ever any type of questioning of what she does.”
Saying that the small town atmosphere of Philippi, W.V., reminds her of NT, Milbrand said that she couldn’t picture herself in a big city/big school setting. Excited for her next step in life Julie Milbrand said whatever successes come her way she has her hometown support network to thank for her preparing her to being focused enough to find her dreams. And brave enough to make them come true.
“NT definitely taught me to work hard and never take it easy, I guess.” Milbrand said. “All I’ve got to bring to A-B.”
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