Versatile McMillan a headache for defenses

Valley View’s Micah McMillan is the Best Under The Sun Player of the Year after finishing the season with 29 goals and 21 assists.

JONESBORO — Valley View soccer coach Ron Teat can’t remember many Lady Blazers, maybe three or four, who have finished a season with statistics similar to those Micah McMillan produced as a sophomore.

McMillan, the Best Under The Sun Player of the Year in girls’ soccer, joined the 20-20 club in the spring as she led the Lady Blazers in total points. She scored 29 goals and finished with 21 assists as Valley View went 19-3 and reached the Class 4A state semifinals.

“Obviously she was a headache for anyone who played on the right side of a defense,” said Teat, who took over the Valley View girls’ program in 2006. “Looking back, I’ve only had a few players score that many goals and have that many assists, and for her to be able to do that with the other players who scored for us, that’s the big thing when you look at our stats.

“She’s not the only one we go to and what people don’t see is she had to play midfield a lot early in the season because of basketball and things going on where we didn’t have some players. As a midfielder, you don’t get a lot of those scoring opportunities that she was getting later in the season.”

McMillan, one of nine Class 4A all-state selections for Valley View, was happy with how the season unfolded personally and for the team as well. She started the season with little experience since nearly all of her freshman season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I felt a little more comfortable this year than I did last year because we had gotten to play a few games. That was good for me, but I was definitely still nervous,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I had enough experience to play in high school because I missed a whole season, but it turned out for the best. You just want to work harder, catch up for that time you missed.”

McMillan used some of the down time last year to run, something she describes as being in her blood. Both of her parents like to run, she said, and her sister helped Valley View win the Class 4A state cross country championship last fall.

Even during volleyball season, McMillan finds extra time to run.

“For volleyball, we have to run a lot in the morning, like before practices, and on days we’re off, I’ll run a mile or so just to stay in shape for that,” she said. “And throughout soccer practices and games, I’ll run a lot.”

Teat said McMillan brings the mentality of a 400-meter runner to games along with a rare skill that makes her difficult to stop.

“She likes to run. She’ll sprint 80 yards and she’ll just leave people,” Teat said. “She just has another gear as well and what makes her a little more special is she’s right-footed, but she doesn’t like using it. She’d rather use her left foot.

“She spent a lot of time using her left foot, which has put people in a bind because most of the time, on the girls’ side especially, it’s hard to find someone who will use their left foot consistently. When you find those players, you become a little more dynamic as a team.”

McMillan was one of four Lady Blazers with double-digit goals this season. Senior Emily Minton led Valley View with 34 goals, while sophomore Morghan Weaver and senior Emma Higgins added 16 and 14, respectively.

With Valley View spreading the ball around, McMillan never had more than three goals in a game. She scored two goals and had one assist in each of the Lady Blazers’ first two state tournament games, victories over eStem and Dardanelle.

McMillan has a few areas where she wants to improve before her junior season.

“Passing and moving is something we really focused on this year. For me, it’s just being able to pass the ball and move without it so I can have more opportunities to score, and to get the ball in for others to score,” McMillan said. “That was a big focus point this year for me. And working with my right foot more, being able to shoot with that. A lot of times I just want to take it with my left foot.”

Teat expects McMillan to be more assertive in looking to score, too.

“You almost have to make her be selfish. She’d rather have the 21 assists than the goals,” Teat said. “She’s that type of player that as a coach, you’re going to bang your head a little because she probably could have gone out in a couple of those games and she could have scored another goal or two, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It makes us better, but I guess in big games, you want her to be able to go score.”

Valley View’s bid for a state title ended when eventual state champion Pulaski Academy converted a penalty kick with under eight minutes to play for a 1-0 victory in the 4A state semifinals.

PA defeated Valley View 3-0 early in the regular season and the Lady Blazers dropped a 3-1 decision to 5A state champion Searcy, with McMillan scoring one of three goals the Lady Lions allowed all season.

Valley View’s victories included road wins over Class 6A teams, Cabot and state semifinalist Conway, and a two-game sweep of 3A state champion Harding Academy.

“I was really proud of our team. At first I was a little nervous of how it was going, we had a bunch of freshmen coming up, but throughout the season we had so much improvement,” McMillan said. “I thought we were going to have that state title, but we just fell short a little bit. I was really happy with how the season went, it was good.”