Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

WOMEN’S SOCCER | Miller Anchors Defense

 CHRIS BIEN / THE HOYA Senior defender Gabby Miller (7) has returned from injury to spark the Hoyas’ back line.

Senior defender Gabby Miller (7) has returned from injury to spark the Hoyas’ back line.

For most teams, senior day marks the end of an era. As the last regular-season home game for a group of veterans, it is a symbolic and often-emotional changing of the guard.

For senior defender Gabby Miller and a star-studded graduating class of six key starters, however, the end is nowhere in sight.

Georgetown (13-5, 7-3 Big East) enters today’s final regular-season matchup against conference foe Villanova (8-8-2, 4-6 Big East) having already clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. A win this afternoon coupled with a Louisville defeat on Saturday night would give the Hoyas a National Division title.

“It’ll definitely be weird knowing that this is kind of the beginning of the end,” Miller said. “I think that emotion will be carried over there into the post-season, and that will be another factor with us wanting to win, because there are six of us seniors on the field, and we know that this is our last shot.”

Miller — who started every game for the Blue and Gray at either centerback or or fullback throughout her first three years until a hamstring injury sidelined her for six games this year — has resumed her role as the anchor of the defense in the month of October, providing speed, aggression and leadership to a young backline.

“She’s been around the block for us, she’s been very, very solid for us for these last three years. When she got hurt earlier this year it was a big loss for us,” Head Coach Dave Nolan said. “We had to rush her back quicker than we would’ve wanted. … Since then she’s probably been our best defender. These last three games she’s been exceptional.”

Following her ill-timed injury, the 5-foot-6 senior says she has returned to pitch with a newfound mentality.

“I think the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was watch during the season when I couldn’t play,” Miller said. “It’s forced me to go into each game knowing that I’m not going to play [half-hearted], and that I’m going to play as hard as I can because I could get hurt in this game … just to play without fear.”

Miller’s approach has made itself more than evident in recent games. Playing alongside three sophomores, the senior from Wayne, Pa. has stepped into a greater leadership position in her final season and has embraced a more aggressive role to complement the strengths of speedy sophomore Emily Menges, her partner in the center of the defense.

“In years past it’s been my speed that has set me apart, but now Emily’s faster than me so I’ve had to step up in a different area where I’m probably more physical than she is,” Miller said. “We’ve kind of adapted those roles this year … it’s just learning how to play and adapt to who you’re playing with.”

Villanova enters today’s matchup in need of at least one point, since a loss will end the Wildcats’ season. To combat the anticipated urgent approach from their Big East rivals and keep their hopes for a top seed in the Big East tournament alive, the Hoyas will need to replicate the emotional performances which propelled them to a sweep of last weekend’s midwest road trip.

“Coming off the loss from Louisville, we all knew that this past weekend was so important, and we played like it,” Miller said. “We knew that we had to come out with this certain desire to win, and I think we still have that after beating Notre Dame. … I think we’re still kind of on that high, and we know what we have to do.”

The Blue and Gray will have to tread the fine line between allowing emotion to fuel them and allowing it to get the better of them, especially given the occasion.

Although Georgetown has had plenty of success against the Wildcats over the past three years — winning the teams’ last three meetings by a combined score of 10-1 — Nolan knows that this year’s fixture won’t be easy.

“They’re a well-coached team, a very dangerous team, [and] I’m not expecting it to be easy…Senior day is always one of those days where you never know what you’re going to get,” Nolan said. “Sometimes you have teams that get so hung up on the emotion of senior day that they’re a little bit distracted. I think our seniors feel that we’ve got so much more soccer to play that I don’t think they’ll allow it to be a distraction.”

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. this afternoon at North Kehoe Field.

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