Since Lizzy Millen started playing in middle school, field hockey has always been “just a sport to play in the fall,” she said.
But this past summer, when the redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper was given the opportunity to play on the U.S. National Under-21 team, her mindset changed.
“It was never really an aspiration of mine to go that far,” Millen said about playing on the national level. “When I started field hockey it was just a sport to play in the fall, and it just kind of took off for me.”
Though a scheduling conflict prevented her from joining the U-21 team, Millen is looking to build upon her success from last year this season.
Last year in her first year as a starter, Millen went 9–11 with a .701 save percentage. She broke out in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships in November 2011 after shutting out the University of Massachusetts and recording a career high of 11 saves in a 1–0 loss to Richmond in the tournament final. For her efforts, Millen was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
“[Millen] had a heck of a tournament at the A-10’s,” coach Amanda Janney said. “I think getting the recognition of the most outstanding player of the tournament without our team winning was great for her confidence and great for her recognition.”
However, in middle school, field hockey was merely an extracurricular activity for Millen, and her first year playing field hockey was almost her last.
“My middle school coach made me a goalie and I hated it,” Millen said. “I almost quit that very year, but I kept at it because my mom used to play field hockey and I wanted to do it for her.”
Both Janney and teammate junior defender Mandi Shearer said that Millen is the team’s most vocal player on the field, whether it’s cheering on her team or telling the defense where to go.
“I think being vocal comes from my mom,” Millen said. “She’s a very outspoken woman and I take after her.”
Coming out of high school, Millen redshirted her first season while she played behind Sarah Dalrymple.
Shearer has been playing with Millen for the past two years and she said that playing behind Dalrymple helped Millen with the college game.
“[Millen’s] freshman year, she redshirted underneath [Dalrymple], who went and trained with the national team,” Shearer said. “[Millen] learned a lot from her.”
Although Millen was talented, she still struggled with fitness testing in the spring of her freshman year. Shearer said that Millen was ready to play by the fall of her second year.
“[Millen] knew she had to bring it in the fall, and she did,” Shearer said. “It was a complete turnaround.”
Like many collegiate athletes, Millen came to school early this summer to work out and take summer classes to make up for missed credits while in season. She was forced to skip the national team tryout and stay in school.
“I would’ve missed two weeks of summer classes,” Millen said. “And with how fast the summer sections are, I would have missed too much stuff to pass my classes.”
The path to making the U.S. National Team isn’t comparable to other sports, where performance in collegiate events is counted on.
Being on U.S. Field Hockey Association High Performance teams in the summer showcases athletes and makes them eligible to be selected to go to Junior National Camp, Janney said. Playing for these teams helps girls get selected for the national team.
Millen was selected to play on New Jersey’s High Performance squad and played on a team with Janney as an assistant coach.
“[Millen] did great in the summer league, and our team won it and went to Nationals,” Janney said. “From that she got invited to go to Junior National Camp and unfortunately wasn’t able to go.”
For Janney, having Temple players making the national team is a lost tradition that she hopes to rebuild.
“[Millen] making the team would be big, because we haven’t had a player in a few years make the national team,” Janney said. “Temple used to produce national team players all the time and it was tradition that Temple had a lot of girls there, so it would be great to get back to that tradition of sending players to the national team.”
Although Millen may have her sights set on joining the U.S. National Team next summer, she said that right now her goals for this season are all about her collegiate team.
“A big goal I have is for the team to have a winning record, even though we always make it to the A-10’s we haven’t had a winning record in awhile,” Millen said. “I want to have a winning record, make it to the A-10’s and hopefully win this year.”
Colin Tansits can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @colin_tansits.