Prep soccer: Salisbury's Miller signs with ODU

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 14, 2012

By Mike London
SALISBURY — Salisbury coach Matt Parrish is rarely seen without an Indiana soccer cap gracing his head.
The colorful hats sported by Parrish over the years have been gifts from the soccer-playing Miller family, which shares Parrish’s Indiana roots.
But Parrish may have a new fashion look next fall. Connor Miller, the Hornets’ 6-foot-5 goalkeeper, has signed with Old Dominion, a Division I program in Norfolk, Va.
“Connor has been super for us,” Parrish said. “His selection for the East-West All-Star Game is the pinnacle, the period at the end of a great career.”
Your rivals know you best, and when Central Davidson’s Chad Hench was named to coach the West all-stars, he immediately texted Parrish to ask if Hornets Miller and CCC Player of the Year Kenny Bonilla would play for him. Hench wanted them on his side for once, after years of watching them make things tough for Central’s Spartans.
Miller and Bonilla accepted, and they’ll be just the fourth and fifth players from tradition-rich Salisbury to appear in the summer showcase.
“It was a surprise to be selected,” Miller said. “And a very great honor.”
Miller got started in soccer early. His older sister, Emma, was a sensational player at Salisbury, scoring 30 goals in a single season.
“My sister was really into it and my dad was coaching, so it was natural for me to like soccer,” Miller said. “I could kick it pretty far, and that kept me interested in playing.”
And he kept playing.
Not just locally, but with the elite North Meck Development Academy team in the summer and winter months.
Miller became Salisbury’s starting keeper as a sophomore in the fall of 2009, and the accolades haven’t stopped flowing. He’s been named all-region three times.
In 74 matches, he produced 38 shutouts, and the Hornets put up a 66-5-3 record during his watch. There were three CCC titles, plus, of course, the 2011 2A state crown.
“All the physical attributes are there for Connor to be a fine college player,” Parrish said. “He’s got a cannon arm and a powerful leg, and besides being 6-5, he’s got the wingspan of someone 6-8. He’s got a third of the box covered.”
Besides the physical side of things, Parrish gives Miller high marks for the stuff that tape can’t measure.
“Goalkeepers aren’t always conditioning conscious, but when we ran sprints, Connor was at the front,” Parrish said. “He brings a lot of positive intangibles to the table, and I know how much all our guys respected him and trusted him to make plays behind them.”
Salisbury’s 3-2 overtime win against Carrboro for its first state championship always will be remembered for Emmy Turcios’ golden goal, but there would have been no celebration had the Hornets not rallied late in regulation against Cuthbertson in a third-round struggle at Ludwig Stadium 10 days earlier.
Parrish pulled Miller from goal in the final desperate minutes, and his throw-in led to a header by Turcios that produced overtime — and ultimately, victory.
“That’s one I’ll never forget,” Miller said. “I could always make that long throw-in, and it helped get us to the championship game.”
Parrish has his own glowing memories of that November night against Cuthbertson.
“We had good fortune on the road to the championship, but the Cuthbertson goal wasn’t luck, it was planned, something we’d worked on often,” he explained. “If we were down late, Banks Fisher was taking over in goal, and Connor was moving to midfield to give us a 6-5 kid who can run with anyone. Connor made it happen. The kid got it done.”
Old Dominion has been on Miller’s radar screen for a while. An uncle suggested he attend the Monarchs’ summer camp, and he’s been a regular there in recent years.
“One day, the ODU coaches came up to my dad (Owen) and told him that they really wanted to recruit me,” Miller said.
ODU coach Alan Dawson sounds elated to have Miller as part of a six-man class.
“Connor is a big goalkeeper who commands his box,” he said. “He’s ready to compete with our returning goalkeepers immediately.”
A strong student with a 3.97 GPA, Miller plans a career in engineering. But for now, he’s officially an ODU Monarch. He’ll report Aug. 9 and will join a program that was in the NCAA tournament last fall, falling in the second round.
And who eliminated the Monarchs?
No kidding. It was Indiana.