Freshman goalkeeper Sam Miller passes the ball to senior midfielder Madeline Walsh during practice at Goodman Campus on Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016. Miller has registered 10 shutouts in the 13 games she's started this season. (Dallas Basha/B&W Staff)

Miller time: Freshman goalie shines in first season


Standing on the goal line, freshman Sam Miller had a decision to make.

Dive one way, she saves the goal. Dive the other, she doesn’t.

It was her first scrimmage of her collegiate career at Lehigh and she was already trying to defend one of the toughest shots in soccer: the penalty kick. She didn’t have much time to think about it. The shot was taken, she shuffled one direction and dove.

“My first save of the game, usually, is a big deal for me,” Miller said. “Even if it is a relatively easy save, that just gives me a lot of confidence. That’s actually better if it is an easy save.”

This was no easy save. But it was the save that grabbed her teammates’ and coaches’ attention.

“Everyone’s like, ‘All right, she’s in.’ And ever since then, there hasn’t been a doubt in anyone’s mind,” teammate junior Alyssa Riporti said. “She is so confident, and it makes me feel so much more comfortable playing with someone that confident.”

Miller is now 13 games into her regular season and has started every game. She’s recorded a shutout in 10 of her games and didn’t allow her first goal in until her ninth game of the season, breaking the record for Lehigh women’s soccer. She has received Patriot League Rookie of the Week twice, Goalkeeper of the Week and NSCAA Division I Player of the Week.

For a freshman having such a successful athletic career so far, she has big hopes for her future career as well.

“I actually want to be in the FBI,” Miller said. “I’ve always been interested in service and I looked into, briefly, Army and Navy-type stuff. So that has always appealed to me, and I just don’t really want to sit at a desk for my job. I think the FBI, or anything police-like, is kind of a lot like a team or an athletic thing — like a partnership.”

Miller decided she wanted to be a part of the College of Arts and Sciences to study psychology in hopes it might lead her in that direction.

Miller said even though school is challenging, she feels prepared. She says her only challenge, coming from her home in Commack, New York, is leaving her close group of friends behind. When deciding between Ivy League and other Patriot League institutions, she knew it would be tough to fill the void of her friends back home. When she realized the girls on the team were very similar to them, and with her family being so close, she knew Lehigh was the right choice.

“All my teammates have been awesome and so welcoming,” Miller said. “I’ve already formed a lot of close friendships here, and I get to see my parents. . . . I don’t think my mom has missed a game yet.”

Miller has a brother and two step-siblings and is close with everyone in her family. But no one is as close as her brother Jack Miller.

A Division I soccer player at Hartwick College, her brother served as her athletics role model. Coming from a family with divorced parents, he played an even more important role in Miller’s life.

“He was always just super mature, and when I was at my mom’s, he would kind of be like the dad role, just doing things around the house and always helping out,” Miller said. “So I always look up to him like that.”

Miller learned from her brother and his athletic abilities and went on to be a three-sport athlete in high school, winning multiple accolades. Twice she was awarded all-county and once all-state for soccer. For one season, Miller was the captain of her basketball team, a team she was on for four years. She was also a 4-year member of the badminton program. Miller learned many qualities being a three-sport athlete that Lehigh soccer coach Eric Lambinus saw while recruiting her.

“She’s very easy to coach, and she’s very composed,” Lambinus said. “I think you want a goalie to be that. She’s pretty confident in her abilities. She doesn’t get too high, doesn’t get too low, but she’s just overall a very composed player, and doesn’t try to do too much. So she plays within herself, and she lets the game come to her. So it’s a perfect combination for a goalie.”

Miller’s presence on the field is calming for her teammates, and she typically will keep to herself in the locker room before games.

“You can tell she is preparing herself in the locker room, just kind of in her own Zen,” Riporti said. “And then, before the game on the field she’s kind of like, All right, let’s go.’ She’s not a huge talker, but you know that she is focused.”

Riporti feels her chemistry and relationship with Miller is crucial on the field to keep the team organized and to help with communication. Even though she is a freshman, Miller isn’t afraid to be honest and critical of her older teammates. Riporti said they have had a close relationship since the first day.

“(Miller) really tries to get to know everyone,” Riporti said. “Which makes the chemistry on the field that much better.”

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