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Durango’s Millie O’Ketter looks to break records at Northern Arizona University

O’Ketter, who’s ranked fifth in team history with 1,430 career digs, will return for a fifth season with NAU volleyball team
Northern Arizona University defensive specialist Millie O'Ketter (7), seen here a celebrating a play, has suited up for the Lumberjacks the last four seasons. She will play in her fifth and final season in fall 2024. (Courtesy of Millie O'Ketter/photo by Peyton Bartsch)

Millie O’Ketter came from a volleyball family in Durango, and now she’s looking forward to finishing her esteemed volleyball career with her volleyball family at Northern Arizona University.

The former three-year letter winner at Durango High School is the daughter of former college volleyball players Jim Ketter and Illene O’Ketter.

O’Ketter has played in every match during her four-year career as a libero for the Lumberjacks. She is also able to come back for a fifth year at NAU because the NCAA granted athletes who were affected by COVID-19 an extra year of eligibility.

“Once I found out that I have the opportunity to pursue a master's program, I was 100% set on it and also staying at NAU,” O’Ketter said. “I would want to bring that loyalty back to the team. And just being here, I'm so lucky to have ended up in Flagstaff … I'm super thankful I ended up where I am, because there are so many factors that have just lined up perfectly, and for me to be able to get my Master’s for free is incredible.”

Coming out of Durango, O’Ketter said it was a huge dream for her to play at an NCAA Division I school. She credits her father with helping her with the recruiting process, as well as the Four Corners region’s competitive volleyball scene.

She said Northern Arizona took a chance on her with her athletic ability, but she didn’t have a ton of knowledge of the game before college. However, her ability and work ethic paid off. After starting her freshman year as a walk-on, NAU put her on a full-ride scholarship.

“Our head coach, Ken Murphy, even though he never played volleyball, he's one of the most knowledgeable people in the sport,” O’Ketter said. “I think he's very analytical and I think I gained a lot from that. I think I learned a lot more about the little things that go into winning a game or being a successful player.”

O’Ketter is ranked fifth in team history with 1,430 career digs and third in program history with a career average of 4.13 digs per set.

Millie O'Ketter (7) competes in a volleyball match for Northern Arizona University. (Courtesy of Millie O'Ketter)

Last season, O’Ketter was ranked second in the Big Sky Conference with 4.29 digs per set. She was also ranked seventh in the conference last season with 416 digs.

The Lumberjacks struggled last season and finished with a 7-20 overall record and a 4-12 conference record, but she said she still gained a lot from the experience of being a team captain. Northern Arizona had multiple injuries, which helped O’Ketter develop plenty of grit, as well as a confident and calm mindset. She said she had to work on harnessing her energy on the court into being a leader.

After her fifth year, O’Ketter looks to obtain a Master’s degree in human relations after graduating with a strategic communications degree this May. She is seeking employment that still pertains to sports because she’s not ready to let this part of her life stop yet.

O’Ketter trains for 20 hours a week with her team in the offseason, and she’s optimistic her last season can be a good one.

“For our team, we have almost everyone returning,” O’Ketter said. “So I think it's going to be a really big year for our program to just get settled in and push and make it far in the Big Sky tournament and make an impact. After that, I think individually given this extra time, I'm excited to try and break some records at NAU. Why not? We had limited matches in the spring of my freshman year during COVID. So I think this will give me an extra boost, and I'm excited to see what happens.”


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