By Anita Nham, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When senior Carley Muller was in seventh grade, she visited family friends in the Philadelphia-area and had the opportunity to visit Penn State's campus. As soon as she stepped foot onto University Park, she knew that Penn State was her dream school. She loved it so much that the 2,500 miles away from home didn't present any sort of hesitation in her decision.
"In my junior year of high school, I was contacted by coach Rose and I pretty much immediately accepted it as soon as they offered me," Muller said. "It's definitely been life changing and I've become a different person entirely because of it. I think being so far away from my family, I've had to grow up a lot more than I thought I ever would and just do things on my own. Its been a really cool experience to see the person I've become from senior year of high school to my senior year of college."
Muller succeeded in high school, just like she's doing at Penn State. In her senior year of high school, she earned the Bay League Libero of the Year honor and led the team to two first-place finishes at the Pacific Northwestern and SCVA 17 Open tournaments.
At Penn State, Muller made her collegiate debut as a Nittany Lion in the 2013 season opener against Syracuse during her freshman year. Since then, Muller has only continued to grow. In her sophomore year, the Manhattan Beach, California native made 14 appearances on the court including five Big Ten matches and two NCAA Tournament contests. Contributing in the back row, she recorded a career-high performance against Mississippi State last year, leading the team with two aces and five digs.
"Carley has grown as a person and as a volleyball player," senior Taylor Krause said. "She's learned to read the game so well and she offers a lot of good advice to everyone who's on the court and even when she's playing on the court. She knows the game so well and it's beneficial to those around her. She's developed to be such an amazing individual and I'm excited for her future."
With all these amazing moments in the last four years as a Nittany Lion, including Penn State winning the national championship in 2013 and 2014, it can be hard to find a favorite instant, but there's one that sticks out the most for Muller.
"There's been a lot of really good moments, but my favorite one is where I turned to give Aiyana Whitney a high five in the national championship match during the second intermission timeout, and I went to give her a high five, but she was already trying to go to the locker room and it was caught on television. Totally my favorite moment," Muller said.
Aside from her work on the court, Muller has been succeeding in the classroom. During her time as a Nittany Lion, she has earned 2014-15 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar accolades as well as consecutive Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Majoring in public relations and minoring in business, Muller will be graduating from Penn State come December. In February, she will be working at a recruiting and staffing firm in Los Angeles, and she has volleyball to thank for that.
"Volleyball has forced me to come out of my comfort zone and speak to a lot of different people," Muller said. "Penn State volleyball isn't just about volleyball. It's about being with the community and connecting with boosters and everyone here. I think that has been really helpful in changing who I am as a person."
The support from her best friends have also helped her. Muller has been playing with Krause and Laura Broerman since their first semester together. All three of them hold the same position at defensive specialist, but that doesn't stop them from being the best they can be.
"It's actually not what people think it is. We all try to help each other and I think we're better because of it," Muller said. "We have to leave what happens on the court there and just separate the two, and I think that makes us stronger people - to be able to compete against your best friends is a really special experience and it's not easy, but it's been fun."
Broerman can see just how valuable it is to be playing alongside best friends.
"Carley is someone who sees the court really well and can easily tell you what you're doing wrong or well, so even if you don't ask her 'What am I doing wrong here,' she has some insight for you, something to help you better your game," Broerman said.
Along with Krause and Broerman, Muller will be recognized on senior night when Penn State takes on Illinois Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. in the final regular season match of the year. While she has already put together a great career, there are just two things she would tell her freshman year-self.
"Don't ever take any moment for granted and don't take anyone that you've played with for granted because they are the people you will always remember."
And that's the final goal for Muller this season."I want to leave this program knowing that I helped at least one person and changed them as a player or person, knowing that I was able to help them mature," Muller said. "That's been a goal of mine this season, to really help out the freshmen and show them the way. That's what I would like to leave here knowing.