Prep boys' soccer: Miller draws motivation from season's premature end

Prep boys' soccer • Alta finished the season 14-3.
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As an underclassman, Alta's Marshall Miller soaked up all he could from the senior leaders on his soccer team. The leadership conveyed was vital because he was learning what it meant to play the forward position.

The junior responded with a team-leading 15 goals, and he said he owes much of his success to the knowledge he received from his teammates.

"Leadership was really a big aspect of this year," Miller said. "It all came together so quickly. We started winning games and started to believe we could do what we wanted to do. The confidence was building. All of us got so much leadership from the seniors. I hope next year I can be as much of a leader as they were."

Miller credits teammates Alex Tempest and Michael Porter for helping him learn to play forward, while fellow seniors Avery Smith, Tanner Valerio and Connor Sheffield provided constant encouragement along the way.

Though the Hawks didn't get the outcome they wanted — they fell to Bingham in overtime in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament — the lessons learned perhaps were more memorable. With only a handful of seniors on the team, observers were skeptical Alta could win, let alone challenge for the state title.

A second-place finish in region (8-2) and a sterling overall record (14-3) proved the Hawks could compete, making expectations high for next season.

"We had lost a lot of seniors from last year, so everyone was skeptical about what would happen," Miller said. "As a junior class, we knew we would have to step up, and our seniors did a really good job of leading us."

Miller didn't start as a sophomore, but he subbed frequently. He finished with two goals. Asked to play a larger role in the Hawks' offense this year, he responded with four multi-goal games, including a hat trick against Cottonwood.

"He was able to hold the ball well and he also knew how to dish it off," Alta coach Lee Mitchell said. "He's always been a big, strong player, and he's gotten more experience and matured. He's a real great team player. Without him, we couldn't have gone as far as we did. I sure enjoyed having him on the team."

Miller said the transition to a starting role was challenging.

"It's really difficult stepping into a varsity game and playing right off the bat," Miller said. "A lot of the time I was in the right place at the right time. I was set up on many of my goals by my teammates. I thought we had an incredible season."

Miller, who scored two goals against Jordan, Juan Diego and Viewmont, was known for more than just his scoring.

"Even though he scored, he did things to help the team be successful," Mitchell said. "He was really good in the air and scored a lot off corners. He could also create his own shot. As a senior, I hope he takes even more of a leadership role."

The loss to Bingham has done more good than bad for the Hawks, according to Miller, who termed the defeat an eye-opener.

"It's just made us all hungrier," he said. "The second the game was over, I was thinking about next year already. We said 'Next year starts tomorrow.'"