First-Year Coach Miller Looks To Build Culture Of Success
It’s been a tumultuous few years for Northwest College women’s soccer, a program that begins its 2019 schedule Wednesday with its fourth head coach in as many seasons.
The revolving door at the top has created instability for a program that’s seen little success since the departure of longtime coach Rob Hill following the 2016 season. A 2-1 victory over Western Nebraska Community College in October of 2016 was the last time the Lady Trappers appeared in the win column; since that day the team has gone a combined 0-26-1.
But that statistic is about to change, if new interim head coach Aaron Miller has anything to say about it. Hired to replace Bobby Peters, who left the program late last year after one season, Miller comes to NWC with 12 years of collegiate coaching experience. That experience includes six seasons with Region IX South foe Trinidad State Junior College, where Miller was tasked with building the men’s and women’s programs from scratch. He was most recently an assistant with the women’s team at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire.
“I’m familiar with the region from my time at Trinidad State,” Miller said. “I talked to a couple of people associated with Northwest soccer last year, and I knew there had been a lot of coaching turnover. I really love the area, so I was excited things worked out.”
For Miller, soccer has been a family affair for as long as he can remember. His dad was a college soccer coach, and he and his siblings grew up with the sport.
“As a kid growing up, my dad ran soccer camps all summer long so I’ve just always been around it,” he said.
The Lady Trappers began practice last week, and will open the season with a scrimmage against North Idaho College at Trapper Field Wednesday. With four returners from last season and 11 new recruits, Miller said he has a lot of talent to work with.
“By the nature of recruiting, I think that there hasn’t been a whole lot of attention and emphasis in trying to find the right kind of fit in terms of personality and character,” he said. “I think the program has dwindled a bit the last few years because of that.”
Miller was behind the eight-ball in terms of recruiting, with only a few months from the time he was hired to the start of practice to fill his vacancies. But he’s pleased with the players he was able to bring in.
“With the few months I was given, I was able to find good, quality players,” he said. “That’s what I look for when I recruit and bring kids in — if we have to spend seven or eight hours on a bus together, I want to bring in people who are fun and enjoyable and love the game.”
Team bonding began almost immediately, with the players spending time off together off the pitch — including a few meals with their new coach.
“They’re all super-respectful, just really nice kids,” Miller said. “They’re out here for the right reasons, so that will make the season move a lot smoother. There’s a lot of skill and talent there. We’ll have to piece it together a little bit. The chemistry is there, they’ve taken to each other pretty quickly, which is awesome. That’s a big part of it.”
Returning for their second season with the Lady Trappers are former Cody Fillies standouts Genevive Sauers and Jules Novakovich; Kailee Ingalls from Sheridan, Natalia Colicci from Acton, California, and Gabriele Carvalho from San Paolo, Brazil are also back for their sophomore seasons.
Park County will be well represented on the NWC roster this season, with a pair of recruits — Cody’s Alexa Prosceno and Powell’s Jalie Timmons — joining Sauers and Novakovich in Trapper red. NWC also has two new goalkeepers on the squad this season in freshmen Ashlynn Cornelison from Wasilla, Alaska, and Douglas’ Alexa Williams, a Class 3A All-State selection last spring. Having two strong keepers is a good problem to have, according to Miller.
“Alexa [Williams] is a big, tall goalkeeper and first team All- State last year. She was a good pickup for us,” he said. “With her and Ashlynn [Cornelison], we have some great goalkeepers. I’m very happy with how they turned out.”
Other recruits include Anuhea Aliser from Wittman, Arizona, Sapirah Broussard from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Gabrielle Dickson from Kalispell, Montana, and Ali Krediet from Arlington, Washington. The Lady Trappers also have two international recruits in Ana Beatriz from Brazil and Judy McIntosh from Grenada.
With one week of practice in the books, Miller said his players have been buying into his coaching philosophy and tactics, though it’s always a challenge for the younger players to adapt to the college game.
“It’s freshmen and sophomores in college, and they have to make that mentality change to the physicality of the college game, the speed of play and the athleticism,” he said. “We have that big, monster field up there, and that’s good for athletic teams. We’ll use that space and play in that fashion. We just have to make a couple of adjustments from that jump from high school ball to the college game.”
Miller said his coaching style is very much an attacking brand of soccer, with an eye toward keeping opponents on their heels.
“I want to really dominate games,” he said. “If we’re putting up more goals, two or three goals on teams, that will really make them think twice about playing us a second time around in a season. I want to get out there and really set a tone that these girls can play, because they do have the skill.”
As for the Lady Trappers’ struggles the past few seasons, Miller said it doesn’t take long to flip the script in junior college.
“Junior college soccer is different every year,” he said. “You have a new team every season; we have 12 new recruits coming in.”
“There are traditional strong programs, sure, but anyone can come in and surprise anyone,” Miller added, referencing his Region IX experience. “I know what it takes to be competitive in this region, so we’re working to get there.”