Miller's passion takes her far from home
UCSD's goalie travelled from Hawaii to play water polo
BOSTON -- For most of the teams at the 2013 NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship, the trek to Boston was a long one. However, the voyage might have appeared the longest and the most special for one player above the rest.
UC San Diego freshman goalkeeper Courtney Miller took a plane to the East Coast for the first time. In fact, to her recollection, Miller had never been further east than California.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Miller moved to San Diego to attend UC San Diego and play water polo less than a year ago.
“My flight [to Boston] was a lot like the flight from Hawaii to California,” Miller said. “When we got here, we walked around the town and it was great to see a different perspective of our country. I loved it.”
Miller and UCSD head coach Brad Kreutzcamp admitted that playing in California and Boston away from your family is not the ideal situation and can be tough.
“It’s not fair for all the players and parents of all of the kids from Hawaii,” Kreutzcamp said.
Coming over from Hawaii at the beginning of the year, it was by chance that Miller and the UCSD team got to compete in the Hawaii Spring Break Tournament.
Miller got the opportunity to see her family and share all that her home state has to offer to her fellow teammates and coaches.
“In our first meeting as a team, coach [Kreutzcamp] mentioned we would be going to Hawaii,” Miller said.
She celebrated by throwing her hands in the air and screeched with excitement since she does not get a chance to see her family very much.
“[During the tournament] the crowd was filled with parents, grandmas, aunts and grandpas,” Kreutzcamp said. “And [all the people] seem to know everybody over there.”
The experience was great for Miller and her teammates.
“On the final day, Courtney’s family put together a dinner for us,” Kreutzcamp said. “They gave the girls sarongs; we sat on the sand at the beach at sunset and watched whales in the distance. How do I not come back to Hawaii every year?”
Upon arriving back in San Diego, Miller and the rest of the team got right back to business and Miller finished the year as the Tritons’ single-season record holder in saves (338).
“I actually didn’t know about the record until I was close,” Miller said. “It happened in the last game of the WWPA tournament. It would have been our last game if we had not won. I wasn’t really keeping track until the end when my teammates said, ‘Three more. You got this.’”
Miller is overwhelmed by her early success at UCSD. However, these accomplishments should not surprise her if her track record in high school is any indication of her ability.
As a member of the Punahou School in Honolulu, Miller’s team did not lose a game in four years. In fact, her squads capped every season with an unblemished record and a state championship trophy in hand.
“The coaches in high school, like the ones at UCSD, are invested in a [team theory],” Miller said. “A win is a win and a loss is a loss. We worked at it together.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Kreutzcamp gives full credit to Miller’s efforts, in and out of the water.
“It can’t be understated what she did,” Kreutzcamp said. “To, first of all, play your freshman year is something, but to set the single-season record for saves shows how talented she is. That position is first and foremost the most important.”
Water sports came easily to Miller at a young age. She started out as a swimmer in fourth grade and eventually got involved in water polo with friends.
“I started playing water polo in seventh grade with my best friend,” Miller said. “I had no idea what it was but played because my friends were doing it. I tried out and made the team.
“In the very first game, we were asked who wanted to play goalie and I was picked since I was the tallest. I have been a goalie ever since.”
Even with the fairly smooth move, Kreutzcamp understands the difference in culture and day-to-day environment in Hawaii.
“She is a sponge,” he said. “She had to learn brand new defenses, my defenses and [she] implemented her own … The sky is the limit. This girl doesn’t know how good she can be.
“She is so even-keeled, mellow and mature for a freshman.”
As Miller’s confidence has grown, her talent and overall team expectations have changed drastically.
“She will be one of, If not the, best goalie in UCSD history when it’s all said and done,” Kreutzcamp said.
“I have a no doubt we will be seeing two of the premiere goalies [Sunday],” Kreutzcamp said of Miller and Princeton’s freshman goalie Ashleigh Johnson. “People will be talking about them for a long time.”