Almost a decade ago, then ten year old Miranda Hall, already an athlete, discovered another sport. When she found the team of Misty May and Kerry Jennings serving, diving and slamming something called a volleyball on a beach in China during the Games of The 29th Olympiad, she quickly paid attention.
“Doing gymnastics or diving is a very individualized sport; you’re part of a team, you’re still competing against teammates,” Hall said when asked to compare her sporting experience up until the Summer of 2008 to what came across her television screen. “I think it was a big change to see a team working together. In volleyball, you have to be a very connected team to be successful. It was a cool bond and relationship I saw. It looked so fun, the power the girls had. Watching someone hit a ball, it never gets old.”
Sitting recently on campus at Randolph-Macon on a sunny morning, Hall, a 2016 graduate of Hanover High School, took time to reflect on her love of volleyball, and her rise from awkward new player to a member of two Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) championship teams for the Yellow Jackets, and, this past fall, the Most Valuable Player in the conference.
“I love to watch volleyball, even though I play,” Hall noted. “There’s just something beautiful about just watching big passes, the huge kill. I still get butterflies when I watch a teammate get a big kill, it’s crazy.”
The flame of this love affair, Hall and volleyball, was lit in a satellite connection from Beijing to Hanover, but had to be stoked. She began exploring avenues with which to play, and, by age twelve, tried out for and made the 14U National team sponsored by Richmond Volleyball Club. She may not have realized her talent and potential, but others did.
Thus began her experience on the youth travel circuit, learning, growing, physically and otherwise in the understanding of the game, and the understanding of her passion for it.
“From then I knew I wanted to keep playing. I wanted to be an All-American,” Hall exclaimed. “My mom said she never thought in a million years that you were actually going to like, this was actually going to happen.”
“This” would be the success of Hall’s career, which hit a new high last month when she was named Third Team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), the third straight year Randolph-Macon produced an All-American player, joining Courtney Lowers in 2015 and Erin Quinn last year. Leading the ODAC in kills per set at 3.18, Hall got to experience that thrill of finishing the play over and over again.
It almost didn’t happen.
Travel seasons, combined with now playing at Hanover High on a very competitive team, during her junior year as a Hawk, she decided to walk away from volleyball.
“I think I just got burnt out. Volleyball is one of those sports where, even though there are seasons, it’s always year round,” Hall remembered. “There were camps in the summer, and I think I burned out.”
She later thought of her senior season, and her coach at Hanover at the time, Karl Lippa, whom she played for in some capacity since sixth grade, early in her career. She had a decision to make.
“These girls, they’re all my best friends,” Hall said. “So, I decided to finish out.”
That 2016 team, which included Hall, Lelia Haynesworth, now at North Carolina A&T, Rebecca Hoover, and Kendall Pully advanced all the way to the Group 4A state semifinals. After the final loss, Hall was torn. Part of her couldn’t imagine this being the end of her volleyball road, another couldn’t see her going to the next level. Her mother suggested at least investigating the possibility.
But Randolph-Macon head coach Bill Rogers had Hall in his sights already, seeing Hall play while watching now-teammate Alexia Wolfe.
“I thought he was a parent or somebody,” Hall said with a laugh remembering her first contact with the Yellow Jackets’ leader. “Literally in a week’ span, he called, watched me play, I visited, and I committed.”
The fire had another chance to burn as a “whirlwind”, in Hall’s words, she went from retirement to collegiate student-athlete. The choice proved to be fruitful for all parties.
Adding the ODAC’s top honor this year to Rookie of The Year honors in 2016, Hall still has two seasons left at Crenshaw, and plans to make the most of them. But first, she’s still processing the successes so far.
“Bill texted me and said, you got All-American. I was speechless,” Hall opined.
Now the work begins anew for Hall and her Yellow Jacket teammates, first with offseason workouts, then, just as the tenth anniversary of “Hall Meeting Volleyball” arrives this August, another season, another opportunity begins to weave the tapestry of teamwork, grateful for her past, and hopeful for her future.