It seems the recruiting process becomes earlier and earlier. Young athletes are being looked at by coaches in seventh and eight grade, and expected to make a decision by their sophomore year. It’s a lot of pressure to put on someone so young.
You are asking a child to make a decision on their future. Their future will be decided, in some cases, even before they take their first class in high school - which is insane to think about.
But, there are those athletes who are late bloomers. Ones that don’t grab the eye of a college coach at an early age because of whatever reason. It could be that they are too small or just a late developer. Some of the best soccer players in the world weren’t the best at their age group early on. They took the time to develop and became great later in life.
For Alexandria Miller she knows all too well about being the so called late bloomer. The Sacred Heart Academy keeper didn’t have a ton of offers as her high school career was going on. A lot of it had to do with her size.
Miller entered her freshman year at 5-foot tall. Not really big for a keeper in soccer. But, as the years went on, Miller did what most children do - grow. By the time her senior year came around, Miller is now 5-9, and a dominating force in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.
“I definitely would consider myself a late bloomer. I was 5-foot entering my freshman season and I'm finishing out my senior season at 5-9,” stated Miller. “Trying to play high school soccer through some big growth spurts certainly presented some obstacles. However, it just made me want to work harder despite having not fully developed physically. This year I feel like I have caught up with my body. I've also worked hard with some great goalkeeper coaches in the area, attended ID camps and tried to get good video out to colleges I am interested in attending. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be 5’9” at the keeper position.”
It also doesn’t hurt to face a lot of shots Sacred Heart is one of the youngest teams in the MMAA - and Miller has the saves to prove it. Being some young, the team, at times, tends to let teams take a lot of shots. Miller has been a rock between the pipes of the Sharks - posting eight shouts already.
Having eight shutouts during the season is a feat within itself. What she did against Nichols is like having an out of body experience. Waking up that morning, Miller probably thought it would be just another game.
Sacred Heart has exceeded expectations this year, despite only having three seniors on the team. A lot of that has to do with Miller - who has carried her team at times. Against Nichols, Miller put in an effort that you normally only see from a hockey goaltender.
Miller was in a zone, like Gigi Buffon type of zone, against the Viking as she stopped 23 shots in the win. Twenty three shots is an insane amount at a keeper. If a keeper has to make five saves in a game people consider that a lot.
Try stopping the 23 times.
“We had been improving all season and played some pretty strong games leading up to the Nichols. Even though they were undefeated in our league, we knew we could compete. People who know me outside of soccer are always surprised by how intense and competitive I am on the field,” explained Miller. “I am like this no matter who we play and going into every game believing we can win. They are a very talented team, we were all ready to compete, and I was able to make the saves when the opportunities were there.”
Her performance this season as caught they eye of college coaches both at the Division I and II level. Her story isn’t that off from recent Hamburg High School keeper Julia Whipple. Whipple was ready to do something else with her life when the University at Buffalo came calling last April. Now, she is a Division I keeper for the Bulls.
Coaches will find the players if they are having a good season. Word of mouth is a big thing when everyone starts talking about how good a player is. Miller is a good player on a young and talented team. Now, she will have the opportunity to play at the next level.
“While colleges are definitely approaching me pretty late as it is my senior year season, I'm excited to see where it all goes from here. I am so appreciative of all the opportunities. I feel lucky enough just to be considered even if it is “late,” stated Miller. “A lot of schools have already finished their recruiting for the 2018 class. This fall season has given me some great exposure as well as video to put out and some of these schools I thought were finished recruiting are still reaching out to me. It can all be pretty overwhelming but if I were to do it again, I would definitely have reached out to more schools earlier on. I also had some bad luck in that I had a concussion this summer and ended up missing quite a few tournaments, ID camps, and training time. I lost some very valuable recruitment time which was my biggest obstacle in the process.”
The concussion Miller suffered this summer couldn’t have come at a worse time. The summer of an athletes junior and senior year are their biggest when it comes to college options. With her missing the summer do to the concussion, Miller lost time with coaches and time training.
Miller wasn’t able to get the valuable work in leading into her final year on the team.
“With the concussion, I missed so much of the summer that I had to use the beginning of the season just to get back to where I was before the injury,” she stated. “It is hard to condition in season but seeing a lot of shots early in the year really forced me get back up to speed quickly.”
Being on varsity for four years has allowed Miller to grow into the player she is today and also a leader It’s not easy leading others but, with the team being extremely young this year, Miller has put her leadership skills to the test.
She knows the type of leadership she could provide this year will have a lasting impression on the team for years to come. Sometimes it’s not about wins and losses, it’s how you act on and off the field.
“Going into my last season of high school soccer on such a young team I really wanted to play a leadership role and have a positive and lasting impact on the team. I am lucky enough to be a co-captain with two great leaders on our team Emily Yarbrough and Lindsay Gazda. I was also co-captain with Emily for JV so it's really cool to have an opportunity to be a captain with her again on the varsity team. I think goalie is the perfect position to be a captain. I don’t have to be on the sideline to talk to the team. I am a very vocal goalie and I love to be able to direct the defense, encourage the team and set the pace of the game from the keeper position on the field,” explained Miller. “I want the team to always know they are capable of doing anything with hard work. Don’t settle for other people’s expectations of what they think you can do and play to the last second of the game no matter the score. I try to always be a positive leader on the team and make sure the team knows that we play for each other and win and lose as a team. I like to send the team motivational texts before the game to mentally prepare. I hope they continue to always have the same chemistry we have created this year.”