In the 96th minute of the men’s soccer team’s NCAA Division III Tournament first-round match against Brockport State, Hunter Miller ’16 corralled a turnover around midfield and—with no teammates nearby for support—turned upfield with six defenders and a goalkeeper between him and the net. 

After speeding away from the two players chasing him and regaining the ball through traffic in front of the net, Miller poked the ball into the lower right-hand corner of the net to send the Polar Bears to a round-of-32 match against Brandeis. It was the outside midfielder’s first goal of the season.

Miller’s account was a little more understated.

“I was in the right place at the right time to steal the ball,” he said. “No one stepped to me so I kept going. When they finally did, I pulled a move and went around them.”

Head Coach Scott Wiercinski said that a run of that length only rarely produces a goal. 
However, Miller’s speed left the tired defense in the dust. According to Wiercinski’s expectations for his midfielders, Miller would have held the ball to allow his offense to move forward before starting a passing chain through the midfield. But the game ending goal negated any doubts Wiercinski had about Miller’s aggressive run.

“When he started off on the run, I was hoping that he would slow down so that we could get more numbers forward,” said captain Tom Henshall ’15. “After he ran away from the second player, I was just praying that he would score.”

Miller might have been less inclined to attempt a run of that magnitude, but the nature of the turnover left him without a teammate to pass to. Both teams seemed sluggish chasing Miller, with half of the Brockport defenders on that side of the field failing to get in position to block Miller’s run and  with none of the Polar Bear forwards far enough up the field to offer help.
“Brockport was very organized defensively and always had numbers behind the ball, so a counterattack was always going to be our best opportunity to score,” Henshall said. “It seemed to me that they were playing to tie the game and go into penalty kicks.”

Miller has held a starting spot in midfield since the middle of his sophomore season. As his goal highlighted, Miller plays with speed and aggression and enjoys taking players on in isolation. 

Wiercinski characterizes Miller as an “attacker” at the midfield position despite the team’s primarily defensive mindset.

“He’s creative and a little bit unorthodox,” said Wiercinski. “There’s always that unexpectedness. On the dribble, with his passing choices, his touches—it’s that unpredictable nature that you want to have when you’re attacking. “

Henshall said that Miller’s speed and control allowed him to get around midfielders without the need for flashy moves.

Wiercinski also noted that Miller’s lack of goals during the regular season was more a product of poor luck rather than poor play.

“He’s been very dangerous in a lot of games,” he said. “That it was his first goal of the year was ironic in a lot of ways, but we appreciate the day he chose to score it.”

“I was very proud and very happy for Hunter that he scored that goal,” Wiercinski continued. “Attacking players in any sport derive confidence from scoring. Even though he wasn’t scoring and we had a stretch of games where we weren’t winning, he didn’t get discouraged. If he had been discouraged earlier in the year, he might not have had the confidence to do what he did.”
Miller was one of three players to start every game this season.