When Norhern Illinois University named Marci Miller as the second head coach in the history of its women's soccer program prior to the 2005 season, the Huskies chose someone who literally and figuratively lives the game of soccer.
In addition to her determination to return Northern Illinois to the top of the Mid-American Conference, she's has been a part of the United States Women's National Team's drive for the 2007 World Cup.
The 30-year-old St. Charles, IL, native split the summer of 2006 between recruiting for the Huskies and wearing the USA uniform throughout the team's exhibition preparations for the next World Cup. Miller would welcome the opportunity for a return to China after having donned her nation's jersey back in Janury of 2006 for the Four Dantion's Cup.
However, her passion for the game, coupled with her deep Chicagoland background, led her to begin her collegiate coaching career at NIU.
"I am excited about coming to Northern Illinois University because it is a chance to return to my roots and build a women's soccer program which will be competitive within the MAC as well as regionally and nationally," Miller said at the time of her hire.
Miller's coaching style figures to reflect her on field demeanor. As a player she has earned a reputation as gritty and hardnosed. U.S. National teammate, Shannon Boxx, said, "(Miller) is one of the toughest players I've ever played against."
Miller's current role as a member of the U.S. WNT player pool can be traced all the way back to her club soccer days which led to her playing for various national Under 17, 18, 19 and 20 teams.
A four-time all-state honoree at St. Charles High School, Miller helped the Saints claim Illinois High School Association titles in 1992 and 1994, with a third-place finish in 1993. As a member of the U.S. Under-17 National Team, Miller was a National Soccer Coaches Association of America prep All-America and a member of Soccer America's Super 11 Region II recruits as a senior. From being a member of the Chicago Tribune's 1991 All-Freshmen team, she was a four-time All-Upstate Eight Conference pick and earned all-area, all academic and all-state honors at SCHS.
Not too surprisingly, she became an inductee in to the St. Charles (East) High School Hall of Fame in December of 2005. Making the occasion even more memorable, she was named a recipient of the Jodie Harrison Lifetime Achievement Award.
Miller earned All-Freshman honors from both Soccer America and Soccer News in 1994 at the University of Wisconsin, the first of two seasons with the Badgers when she was a First-Team All-Big Ten Conference performer. She was the Big Ten Player of the Week once during that 1994 campaign when the Badgers were 16-6 and ended in the NCAA first round after sharing the Big Ten regular-season (5-2) title and winning the postseason league tourney. UW was 14-6-4 and second in both the regular-season (4-1-2) and loop tourney (2-1) during the 1995 season which ended in the NCAA second round.
That year, Soccer News named her to its All-Midwest, All-Sophomore, and Elite 11 Midfielder units. She was also First-Team All-West Region honoree in 1995 after having been Second-Team All-Central Region the year before. She was US's No. 2 point producer both seasons with 16 (five goals/six assists) and 20 (five goals/team-best 10 assists).
After transferring to Southern Methodist, Miller added two more First-Team NSCAA All-Central Region titles to her resume. In both seasons witht he Mustangs, Miller earned First-Team All-Western Athletic Conference accolades and was also named the Mountain Division's Player of the Year. SMU was 11-6-4 during her 1996 junior camapaign and compiled a 17-5-1 ledger in 1997 when the season in an NCAA second-round loss to UCLA.
As a midfield starter in all 44 games at SMU, Miller compiled 51 points off 21 goals and ine assists. Her collegiate talllies added up to 87 pts. (31g/25a).
Miller's stellar collegiate playing career paved the way for her to play professionally domestically and internationally.
A member of the gold-medal winning North Squad in the 1995 U.S. Olympic Festival, Miller earned U.S. Olympic Festival All-Tournament acclaim prior to beginning an impressive four-year run as captain of the Chicago Cobras, a member of the semi-pro W-League. She led that league in scoring in one season and helped the Cobras claim the 2000 W-League title.
She spent one season playing for Turbine Potsdam, one of the top teams in the German Women's Bundesliga.
Reflecting on her time in Germany Miller said, "At the time there was no pro league and a lot of the best players in the world were playing in the German league. The different style of soccer they play forced me to become more technically sound. I had always been tough and hard with a lot of passion, but I became better on the ball by playing in Germany."
With the formation of the WUSA, Miller was able to return to the United States to pursue a pro career. The Atlanta Beat selected Marci Miller in the fourth round of the initial WUSA draft, where she faced stiff competition from players like Abby Wambach-- whom she would later room with during her US national training days.
After a four-year tenure with the WUSA, Miller and many of the league's top players returned to W-League competition and she spent 2004 with the Charlotte Eagles before becoming a member of the Atlanta Silverbacks. In addition to playing for the Silverbacks, Miler served as one of the top four staff coaches for the Atlanta United Soccer Association. Her tenure included being the primary coach for Atlanta United's U-15, U-16 and U-17 programs.
Having initially benefitted from their tutelage as a player, Miller has also coached with two of the game's best in Greg Ryan and Brett Hall. Ryan, now the boss of the U.S. Women's National Team, added her to his staff at SMU. After having helped Hall with Chicago Socker club programs, Miller has enlisted the U.S. WNT assistant into serving as a volunteer aide for NIU.
That type of close-knit soccer family tie also extends to goalkeeper assistant Merit Stloukal, who was a former prep teammate at St. Charles and also with the Chicago Cobras. Of course, her right-hand partner on the coaching staff is NIU top assistant and husband, Paul Jobson.
A 1996 graduate of SMU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology, Miller stays in touch with parents Barbara and Walter, who still reside in St. Charles. However, her three brothers -- Mark, Mike and Marty -- and four sisters -- Monica, Mary, Mindy (who played for George Washington) and Maggie (who played for the University of Central Florida) -- are spread around the country.
What Was Said About Marci Miller's Hire:
"I expect her (NIU) teams to be very competitive and very phsyical. I am confident Marci will do a great job at Northern Illinois. I know she has great people skills and will make a fantastic recruiter."
-Greg Ryan, U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach
"I have never been as sure that someone should be a coach as Marci Miller. First, she has tremendous experience as a player at the highest levels and has trained under some of the best coaches in the country. Second, Marci has a keen eye for talent....Third, she has a very strong ability to impart her knowledge....Lastly, Marci has a tremendous work ethic which will always propel her and others around her to the maximum of their abilities."
-Jim Launder, Princeton Soccer Club
"This is an individual who personifies our goal of providing a world-class experience to studen-athletes. Whether it be her illustrious playing resume...or her familiarity and strong recuirting contacts ... to her coaching experience.....to us, she represents the total package of who we're looking for to lead our program."
-Jim Phillips, Northern Illinois Director of Athletics
"She'll be an outstanding coach because she can walk the walk. Marci has proven herself at the highest level of the game. She has a wonderful integrity which will engender the trust of her recruits."
-Anson Dorrance, North Carolina head coach, college soccer's winningest coach