When she was a redshirt freshman, Lizzy Millen was uncertain of her future in field hockey.
“It was definitely a huge period of growth for me,” Millen said. “Coming in freshman year, I was redshirted due to injury. I had a lot of issues with running tests and just meeting standards. At one point, it was almost like field hockey could have been taken off the table for me.”
But the redshirt senior’s fortunes have taken a turn since, as she has been among the nation’s best goalkeepers for the past two seasons.
Temple is 8-4 through its first 12 games, with Millen posting a 81.3 percent save percentage that ranks fifth among Division I teams, a 1.53 goals against average and 74 saves. The co-captain, who has started all of Temple’s games, has also won Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors three times this season.
Being listed as one of the Top 20 goalkeepers isn’t new territory however, as Millen finished No. 19 in the NCAA with a 76.6 save percentage last season, which also included a 1.58 GAA, 105 saves and five shutouts.
The Whitehall, Pennsylvania native’s save percentage reached as high as second in the nation during the Owls’ 2013 run, following a 6-0 shutout of Monmouth back on Sept. 14 of last year, a performance that contributed to a defense that allowed 1.60 goals per game for that season.
Her save percentage stood at a 81.7 percent average by Sept. 24 last season, good for third in the nation at the time, with a 7.25 saves per game average that was 16th best.
By comparison, Millen has accrued an average of 6.16 saves per game this season.
But then again, she doesn’t pay attention to the numbers all that much. Someone else usually has to let her know.
“People are really supportive for our team and just the sports teams here in general,” Millen said. “It’s really nice seeing random people just saying, ‘Hey you’re doing well.’ But it’s always posted online, and our coaches make us aware as a team, so I find out eventually.”
“We’ll use the stats that she is nationally ranked and that she is Top 10 in the nation to help her with her confidence,” coach Amanda Janney said. “You want her to know that she is one of the best goalkeepers out there.”
However, stats don’t matter much to the rest of the team, either.
“Our coaches bring it up in general,” senior midfielder and co-captain Nicole Kroener said. “Like, ‘We have the best keepers, and so we should be risk-taking.’ We never really mention stats in general. It’s just not the way our team works.”
“Obviously, if someone does something good, someone steps up, we’ll congratulate them and give them a pat on the back,” Kroener added. “But it’s usually just about having fun for us. We’re not really paying attention. It’s the team effort and wins.”
Millen has said in the past that she wasn’t happy with the way last year, Temple’s inaugural year in the Big East, ended. The Owls were eliminated in the semifinals of the conference tournament by way of a 3-0 shutout from Connecticut, the eventual national champion and a team they were beat 7-0 by a week before to close out the regular season.
“I think a lot of that came just from being in the Big East our first year,” Millen said. “Nobody knew what to expect or how much more challenging it would be, and it was a significantly large challenge. I don’t know if we were fully mentally prepared for the situation. But now that we finally got our feet wet, I think that this year we’ll be even stronger in tournament play, and I hope that we can come home with a ring.”
“I mean, every year we hope to win the Big East or whatever conference we’re in, then make it to [the NCAA Tournament],” Millen, referring to the team’s time in the Atlantic 10 Conference, added. “So as we’ve been progressively getting better each year, it just seems like it’s more in grasp of something that we can do.”
She said she will leave it all on the field in order to do so. After all, it is her senior year.
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @itssnick215