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With the University of Wisconsin men’s soccer team heading into its most important game of the year in the Big Ten Tournament, they will need to shut down a strong Michigan offense in order to keep their season alive. Although a large burden will be placed on Andy Miller and the rest of the defense, that is more than fine with the Badgers.
Miller, a senior from Barrington, Ill., has been a staple of the Wisconsin defense over the last four years. Ever since his freshman year — when he was placed on the All-Big Ten freshman team — Miller has provided consistency to a Badger squad that is tied for third in the Big Ten this season with 1.11 goals allowed per game.
Through his play, Miller has shown leadership to a defense that features three underclassmen. Head coach Jeff Rohrman also has seen the leadership of his defenseman.
“He’s been terrific,” Rohrman said. “He’s such an honest, hardworking blue collar guy.”
However, Miller’s leadership has been best demonstrated not through his play, but through the way he carries himself both on and off the field.
“In my eyes, in a lot of ways he’s the consummate student athlete,” Rohrman said of Miller, an engineering major. “He takes care of business on the field and off and garners a lot of respect and admiration because he does do things the right way.”
Miller’s dedication to excellence has gained him the esteem not just of his coaches, but of his teammates as well.
“He’s a really nice guy,” fellow senior Victor Diaz said. “I’ve been with him for four years, and he’s been great.”
When Miller is not demonstrating his work ethic in the classroom, he is showing his guidance on the field.
“On the field it’s very competitive,” Miller said. “There’s arguments and fights all the time that we have to step in and get involved with and talk to guys, so leadership has played a big role in that.”
The Badgers will rely heavily on Miller in order to keep alive a season that has had its share of ups and downs. Despite starting the season undefeated through five games, five losses in Big Ten play since then have put Wisconsin’s NCAA Tournament bid at risk.
Although Miller knows Thursday’s game could be his last, he is ready for the challenge.
“It’s kind of crazy how it’s been wrapping down,” Miller said. “This will be the last time we play in this highly competitive of a situation, so that alone is motivation for me to go out as best we can.”
The Badgers are facing a Wolverines team that had only one loss in Big Ten play during the season. Regardless, Miller knows Wisconsin can beat any team on any given day.
“I try to win every single game no matter what,” Miller said. “Obviously there’s pressure; there’s always pressure. But as far as me, I know we can do it. There’s not a single team we don’t think we can’t beat. I’m going in pretty confident.”
If the Badgers find a way to defeat the Wolverines, they will advance to the semi-finals against either Indiana or Ohio State. Although Michigan features an offense with three powerful scorers, coach Rohrman feels the defense will step up.
“There’s going to be times when he’s matched up with the forwards,” Rohrman said. “Any time you have a quick, athletic forward … he’s matched up with Andy Miller. He’s one of those guys that when it comes to individual matchups he usually gets the better of it, and he’s going against some pretty good forwards.”
Even if the Badgers are unable to come out of their match victorious, Miller will still leave his mark on the UW program.
“He is one of the most reliable, dependable guys that we could ever have,” Rohrman said.