Camron Miller // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics
By Conor Wilson
Wetsern soccer center back Camron Miller’s late game heroics against Azusa Pacific University might have been the starting point for his team’s championship run this season.
Down 1-0 with less than a minute to play against the now No. 1 nationally ranked APU Cougars the 6-foot-3-inch center back connected with a long ball at the penalty box and lofted a header past the APU goalkeeper for his first goal as a Viking.
Although Western lost that game in overtime, it preceded the beginning of an 11 game undefeated streak for the Vikings, and a slew of successful performances for the first-year junior who, just last fall, was playing soccer for Whatcom Community College.
“I grew a lot as a player at Whatcom. A lot of people look down on CC [Community College] programs and nobody wants to go to a CC right out of high school,” Miller said. “There’s something to learn at a CC, it humbles you, and everybody’s on the same playing field – everybody wants to get to the next level.”
After his performance against APU, Miller won his first of two Great Northwest Athletic Conference defensive player of the week awards. Of the five Vikings who have won the award this season, Miller is one of only two players to win it twice.
In his first regular season of Vikings soccer, Miller started all 18 games and is tied for second place for goals on the team with four goals under his belt. He has also been an integral part of the team’s defense, which allowed a league-low of five goals in GNAC play – six less than the next-best team.
“Working together as center backs has been a fun experience,” senior defender Jeremiah Lee said in an email. “We’ve only played together for one year, but we have really good chemistry. [Miller] has been a great addition to the team. He is solid on defense and finds space to get his head on the ball in set pieces. Cam is a great player but an even better person!”
All of Miller’s success comes in a season where the team won its first GNAC regular season title since 2008 and will make its second ever appearance in the NCAA Division II Championship. A tournament where Miller said the team is hoping to make its first Final Four appearance.
“I want to say I expected this [success], but at the end of the day I feel like you can’t. Nothing’s guaranteed and you’ve got to work for your spot,” Miller said. “I decided to work when it came to fall season and just hope that I got a starting spot.”
After finishing high school at Glacier Peak, Miller said he only had two serious options to continue playing, Whatcom Community College and NAIA school, Northwest University.
“[Western] wasn’t an option for me. I was the shortest center back in my league when I played club soccer,” Miller said. “I didn’t grow until probably my senior year, probably high school soccer, I was a really small center back, so I don’t think many colleges looked at that.”
In his two years at Whatcom, Miller served as the team captain, lead the team to a 33-5-7 overall record, and contributed to a pair of runner-up finishes in the Northwest Athletic Conference Championship.
“We built a family [at Whatcom],” Miller said. “I think a lot of that was because there weren’t a lot of egos on the team. Everybody was like ‘we’re all at CC, we all want to get better, so let’s push ourselves.’’’
Miller said his team was unified by collective desire to prove others wrong.
“A lot of us had the same story,” Miller said. “People didn’t think we were good enough to play Division II or even at a four-year program.”
After his stint at Whatcom, Miller said he transferred to Western in winter 2019 and began working out with the team in preparation for its spring season.
Western head coach Greg Brisbon, who has been watching Miller play since high school said Miller’s time at Whatcom was significant in helping him develop.
“I thought Whatcom was a great choice for him so he could get games right away,” Brisbon said. “One of the main reasons I recruited him out of Whatcom was his improvement from out of high school to where he was as a sophomore.”
Brisbon said despite the differences in play between Whatcom and Western, Miller has done well meeting the challenge.
“The speed of play is faster, and he’s adjusted to that,” Brisbon said. “The physical side, he’s gotten a lot stronger in our off season, and just technical skills playing out of the back and reading situation all have improved. There’s a lot of things, but his willingness to compete is a huge factor for his development.”
Even though his days at Whatcom are over, Miller said he still finds ways to compete with his old teammates.
“One of them plays at [Northwest Nazarene University] which we played this year so that one’s definitely like in game,” Miller said. “Also play time, if you score a goal or that type of stuff, we have fun competing in that way.”
Miller said he is motivated to repeat his success in the NCAA tournament and into his senior season.
“I always want to be the best center back on the team wherever I go. I want to be the best player I can be. I’m just a competitive person, even if it’s in practice against my teammates,” Miller said. “I think it’s just the nature of who I am: I like to compete, and I find joy in that.”