Girls soccer: Degen Miller kicks way to player of the year honor

Dawson senior netted 43 goals in 2021

LAFAYETTE — Dawson’s Degen Miller rounds ...
Brent W. New/
LAFAYETTE — Dawson’s Degen Miller rounds the corner towards the net against Fort Lupton on Monday, May 17, 2021.

Degen Miller’s senior season ended three weeks ago. It’s behind her. Fun to think about, though.

Already settled across the country, some thousand miles away in Charlottesville, Virginia, Miller is onto her next journey in the city of Thomas Jefferson’s famed estate — a place at U of V she, too, hopes to consider a home of her own.

“I just got here Thursday and we’re kind of in pre-preseason mode,” the now-Cavaliers freshman said. “We’ll start the preseason at the beginning of August and then I’m pretty much here until December. We have the ACC Tournament (in November) and we are going into the national tournament (that could go into) December. So, depending on how long that goes, I’ll be back in Colorado sometime in December.”

Back here, the player of the year turned the Class 2A soccer world on its head.

A season shrunk and pushed back to a late-June finish due to circumstances revolving around the pandemic, Miller still managed 43 goals and 16 assists as part of an unrivaled season across Colorado.

Her 102 points were 17 more than the state’s second-highest scoring player. The Academy’s AJ Loera had 39 goals and seven assists for a total of 85.

Miller’s final high school stat line — this, in the 2A finals — read as another four-goal game, the fifth time she finished with exactly four goals in a contest this season. It powered the Mustangs to a 15-4 win over Telluride in the highest scoring girls soccer finals game in Colorado history, sending Dawson to its second title in three seasons.

“She’s definitely a special player who is ranked right up there as one of the top players to come through Dawson,” coach David Criswell said. “Her impact, not just on the program, but we talk about building a long-term culture, and she is one of those contributors who did as much for the culture as she did on the field.”

Arguably the greatest player to come out of Dawson needed just two and a half seasons of work to prove as much.

Miller had 25 goals as a freshman before a collarbone injury cut it short. She followed up with 31 more as a sophomore before having her junior season canceled due to the pandemic.

Her best was saved for last.

Miller’s goal output during the senior season was less “soccer believable” and rather mirrored that of a craps roller at 2 a.m., their luck finally turning, going for three, four, five — twice each — then four on five different occasions, and six on another.

But Miller’s streak was more than a good run. With a commitment unwavering to all of her soccer responsibilities, she put together arguably the best high school season in the state while balancing play with her club team and readying herself for college play.

“With the high school season obviously being pushed back so far it overlapped with a lot of summer training I was planning on doing to make sure I came into college fit and ready,” Miller said. “I was trying to give my all to the Dawson team and then I was also training with my club in the morning.”

While playing in a national tournament in Florida a week after state, Miller was told she’d won the Gatorade Colorado girls soccer player of the year. The honor came 12 years after Dawson soccer’s last recipient, Olivia Wagner.

For Miller, though, it’s easier to rave about her Dawson teammates than her own accolades.

“I just think goals like that can be a lot more exciting sometimes when it’s a great team buildup than just an individual goal,” Miller said, describing a cross to frontline mate Lauren Muniz, a freshman, who hit a picturesque header into the back of the net. “I always try to look for those players in the box for crosses.”

Those connections she’ll cherish.

But for now, she seems a bit busy. So, it’s back to work.