By Ronald Hanaki
Nicole Miller, a 2014 ESU graduate, was named as the new Head Coach of Shippensburg University’s Women’s Lacrosse program last summer.
The Pottstown, Pa. native said, “Lacrosse is something I’ve been doing since childhood.”
The public health major was a four-year starter at ESU. Miller was a standout midfielder who was invited to play lacrosse in Prague before her junior year.
In her senior year, Miller tallied 35 goals and two assists and was named the Team MVP. Miller ranks among the all-time lacrosse greats at ESU with 107 goals and 25 assists in her Warrior career.
In addition, Miller developed her leadership skills while serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). She was also a volunteer lacrosse coach at her high school.
“After I was done with my four years, I wasn’t ready to give up lacrosse yet,” said Miller. “So I continued into coaching.”
Miller spent two seasons as an Assistant Coach at York College, Pa. after graduating from ESU. York is a perennial Division III lacrosse powerhouse.
The Spartans made the national tournament both years that she coached there making the Elite 8 in 2015 and the NCAA Regional Round last season.
Miller also brings experience coaching club lacrosse with Dynamite Lacrosse and Lanco Elite.
Then Shippensburg came calling.
“I knew I wanted to go back to Division II,” said Miller. “Division II is the perfect balance between kids having a social life and kids being student-athletes.”
“So when this job opened up, it was the perfect opportunity,” said Miller.
The Raiders were 5-11 last year. With six wins on the season, the team has already surpassed last year’s win total.
“It’s a culture adjustment with me,” said Miller. “But I’m the head coach, so they’re going to listen to me.”
“They want the same goals that I want. They want to contend, and they want to win,” said Miller.
Miller explained her coaching philosophy.
“We want to be quick all-around,” said Miller. “We want to be quick defensively and get on the attackers in the right way.”
“We want to be spread out and have fast ball movement. Then everyone can get to the cage on any given day,” stated Miller.
Miller’s passion for the game is infectious, and the team quickly bought in. Their effort was rewarded with a four-game winning streak to open the season.
“This team has come far in a very short time,” said Miller. “We want to play games for the full 60 minutes.”
“Each day, we want to get better and improve,” stated Miller.
Miller returned to ESU’s Whitenight Field on April 12 to play in the second annual Alyssa Oxenford Memorial Game.
The game was a reunion for Miller and ESU Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach Xeni Barakos. Miller was a freshman, and Barakos was a senior on the 2014 team.
“I am very close to Xeni,” said Miller. “We have a great friendship.”
“Xeni has done a great job with the program,” added Miller.
The Warriors took an early four-goal lead, but the Raiders rallied and lost by only two goals.
Miller shared her thoughts after the game.
“It’s exciting to come back here and honor my past teammate, Alyssa Oxenford,” said Miller. “But I have my own team now, and we’re out to win.”
Despite being down by as many as five goals, Shippensburg clawed back to within two goals twice and even outshot ESU 33-28.
“This team plays with heart and hustle,” said Miller. “We don’t give up no matter if we are down by two or down by four.”
“We rose to the challenge. We stuck it out, and I couldn’t be more proud of that,” said Miller.
“We take it game by game, and we don’t hold back,” said Miller. “We play 60 minutes.”
“We’ve already made a lot of progress since we started on September 7, and that’s the little things that we need to be proud of as a coaching staff and team,” said Miller.
“Our ultimate goal is to be higher in the seeding than the beginning of the season,” said Miller. “It’s definitely a goal to make it to the playoffs.”
Miller is confident that Women’s Lacrosse at Shippensburg will flourish.
“I love it there at Ship. It’s a great campus and a great athletic department to work for,” stated Miller.
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