Katie Miller Feature: The Privilege of Being a Spartan
Spartan senior goalkeeper
By Angie Bazzano, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Making the journey from Ireland to East Lansing to play field hockey at Michigan State was well worth it for senior goalkeeper Katie Miller.
Her passion for field hockey began not so much by choice, but by requirements. Her high school of The King’s Hospital, required that all students play field hockey and basketball. When first starting out, Miller began playing midfield but didn’t feel that it was for her. Once she made the switch from midfielder to goalie, she was hooked and loved it right away.
The Country Kildare, Ireland native made the 3,478 mile trip to Michigan State to play the sport she loves and since then her passion for the game hasn’t stopped surging.
“The team was so welcoming,” said Miller. “It’s nice having Helen (Knull), who has been through the same situation coming from Scotland to a school abroad, so she knows the struggles and really helps us through it.”
Through the support of her teammates, head coach Helen Knull and family members, Miller knew that she would be able to excel at Michigan State, both on the field and in the classroom.
Although she had traveled to the United States multiple times prior to starting her college experience in East Lansing to visit family, there were still cultural differences that made the adjustment challenging in the beginning of her career.
“It’s definitely a culture shock. There’s really nothing like D1 athletics at home. They don’t really look after the athletes as well as they do here, so it’s a real privilege for me to be able to come here and play the sport I love.”
She attributes a lot of her successes to her teammates, as they are her primary influencers on and off the field.
“We’re such a tight-knit team. We do a lot of stuff off the field together as well as on the field.”
Having seen playing time in net since her freshman season, Miller was no stranger to being on the field during big games. Being able to contribute to the team on the field has been an honor and a privilege for Miller.
“There are some games where, as a goalie, you don’t feel that you’ve contributed that much, but then there are other games, like our Ohio State game that went to shootouts… That was probably one of the best games I’ve ever played in my life.”
In this season’s victory over conference rival Ohio State, Miller played a total of 65 minutes and had eight saves to lead the team to a 2-1 win that went into shootouts. This game in particular stands out in her mind as one that solidifies why she keeps playing the game she loves.
“It was an unreal experience just to be able to contribute that much and contribute to the win. It’s a great feeling,” said Miller. “It doesn’t happen that often for a goalie, but when it does it’s special. It makes you remember why you put in so much hard work.”
Another challenge Miller has faced throughout her Spartan journey has been balancing the demanding hours of field hockey and having a hard major, engineering.
“I feel like the first few years, school-wise it wasn’t really that hard, but that’s when field hockey was the hardest, making the adjustment. Whereas now, I’m in my groove with hockey but school is getting harder so it’s hard trying to balance them,” said Miller. “It’s tough, I really don’t have a social life, it’s all school and hockey.”
Miller was able to find balance between the two right away as she was named an Academic All-Big Ten during her sophomore and junior seasons, as well as the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) National Academic Team for all three seasons. Field hockey wise, Miller was awarded the team’s co-Most Valuable Player and the Defensive Player of the Year during the 2015 season.
Having the opportunity to be a student-athlete at Michigan State has been a rewarding experience for Miller and she can’t imagine a time where she wasn’t a Spartan. To her, being a Spartan is all about teamwork.
“A lot of teamwork. I feel like you think of Spartans going to battle, they’re all in a line, they’re all working together. We really try to bring that when it comes to playing field hockey,” Miller said. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link so bringing everyone up together on the same level is just really important.”
As the season winds down, Miller still believes the Spartans have a chance to have more successes this season. With the 2017 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament at home in East Lansing, she hopes the team can make a run during the tournament and prove that they still are a post-season contender.
“Playing at home is going to be something special. I think we can win it this year.”
While watching from the sidelines will be hard for her, Miller will be out at Ralph Young Field supporting her teammates next fall at every game.
Miller’s message to the underclassmen on the team and younger players that dream of playing field hockey in college can be summed up into two words: hard work.
“Work hard and have the patience,” Miller advises. “Sometimes it doesn’t just work straight away, you really have to grind at it and keep working at it and then eventually your time will come.”
As Miller takes the net for the Green and White for the last time this regular season, she hopes to have made an impact on her teammates and the Spartan field hockey program. Her leadership of working hard and putting forth her best effort won’t go unnoticed.
“I just really want to be remembered on the team for my work ethic and have that stick with the girls,” said Miller. “I just want to have an impact on the younger girls on the team.”