Junior defender Jansen Miller was perhaps one of Indiana men’s soccer’s more under-the-radar newcomers this season.
After serving as a stalwart on Xavier University’s backline for two seasons, Miller transferred to Indiana this past spring. During the preseason, head coach Todd Yeagley said Miller was a physically different player than what the team had been accustomed to, and that his unique skillset would be needed throughout the season.
Through the Hoosiers’ first four matches this season, however, Miller was designated to the bench. Against Butler University on Wednesday night, with an injury to redshirt senior defender Daniel Munie and an early yellow card shown to fifth-year senior defender Nyk Sessock, Miller’s number was finally called.
Yeagley said he knew Miller would be ready for the opportunity.
“He came in and had an up–and-down preseason, and he’d be the first to admit that,” Yeagley said post-match. “He’s had two really good weeks, and I’ve told him the last week, ‘Jansen, just keep this up. We’re gonna need you.’ He was ready.”
When Miller entered the match, Yeagley said his positive presence and driven mentality were contagious to the rest of the team. After falling in a 1-0 hole to start the second half, Miller made sure the Hoosiers never wavered.
In the 53rd minute, sophomore midfielder Patrick McDonald fired a corner kick into the box, and it was barreling towards none other than Miller. Miller tracked the cross and placed a powerful header into the net to draw the match level and record his first collegiate goal.
Miller said he was happy to finally find the back of the net.
“That was amazing,” Miller said. “That’s actually my first college goal ever, and I’ve played 30 games and I’ve been close. “It felt good to get the first goal.”
Miller’s equalizer brought a noticeably different energy to the Hoosiers. After a rather sluggish first half, the team began to fly around the pitch and control the match.
With another goal courtesy of redshirt senior Ryan Wittenbrink and a handful of terrific saves by junior goalkeeper JT Harms, the Hoosiers concluded their nonconference slate with two-consecutive wins against ranked opponents.
Yeagley talked about how important it is for players on the bench to remain focused and be ready for opportunities.
“Whether it’s at practice or on the bus, you can’t lie to them,” Yeagley said. “You just got to be straight up and go, ‘Listen you’re doing some things well, you got to do this a little better.’ (Miller) will be the example for the next guy who’s just a little down and out about his minutes.” Watching from the sidelines can be a challenge. Miller, who was an integral part of Xavier’s team, had to exercise patience to maximize his opportunities.
“I played at Xavier, but it’s nothing compared to (Indiana),” Miller said. “I’ve just kept my head down, been ready and I knew I’d be able to make something happen when my turn was called.”
On Wednesday night, the Hoosiers’ depth was crucial to securing their third straight win. Indiana will turn to conference play next and to take on Ohio State at 2 p.m. Sept. 18 in Columbus, Ohio. The match will be broadcast on B1G+.