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When the visor comes down, the game face comes on for Northview senior Megan Miller.
Employing an aggressive style that contradicts her otherwise quiet demeanor and average stature, Miller has become one of the area’s most accomplished tennis players.
Miller is a power hitter who likes crushing the ball with angry ground strokes. The results also have been equally stunning: a career record of 81-9, four Northern Lakes League individual titles, four straight sectional championships, and last year’s district crown.
“I’m a power hitter,” Miller says with quiet reserve. “I like crushing it. People wouldn’t expect that from me. I’m not a huge tennis player. But I love to hit it hard. I’m an aggressive player.”
Miller burst onto the scene as a freshman under the close guidance of her coach and mother, Susie, by going 18-5 and winning her first NLL No. 1 singles title. Miller has never lost a match in the NLL during the regular season or in the tournament — a 40-0 record.
Miller is the first girl ever to win four No. 1 singles titles in the NLL.
Miller takes an 18-0 record into the district tournament this weekend as her senior year suddenly winds down.
“Actually it’s crazy how fast it went by,” Miller said. “Now there are no redos or start overs. Once you lose you’re done.”
Susie Miller, the longtime coach at Northview, has been Megan’s main instructor since her daughter took up the sport at age 7.
Susie, who played at Bowling Green State University, said there hasn’t been much time for reflection yet.
“We don’t sit and analyze what she has done,” Susie said. “I just wanted her to improve and get to the next level. But we’ve never put pressure on her. It needs to be challenging but fun at the same time.”
Megan will follow in her mom’s path to play at BGSU, and gives equal credit to both her mom and her dad, Greg, who also plays competitive tennis.
“I was kind of destined to be a tennis player,” Megan said. “My dad got me started and I fell in love with tennis. Then my mom started working with me. I went to my first tournament when I was 10. I give total credit to my parents. There is a fun aspect to it. I try to balance everything, with school, social life, and tennis. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t still be doing it.”
Her mother instilled intensity from the start.
“From day one I trained her to keep her head down and focus on what she needs to do,” Susie said. “When she does put her visor down it looks like she's ready to compete.”
Susie said when her daughter takes the court, she gets “a different look on her face.”
“Growing up I wanted her to learn to put balls away and use her power game to be able to finish off points and not just hit it back. She thrives on that,” Susie said. “A lot of people are surprised how hard she hits the ball. Her timing and connection are so good.”
Megan said her friends from school are shocked when they first see her play.
“At school, I’m smiling and laughing all the time,” she said. “But I put my visor on and it’s game on. I love the baseline. I don’t like sitting back and waiting for things to happen. I go for it. I don’t like losing and I fight for every last point. I will never give up.”
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Her teammates have fed off that energy. Northview won the NLL team title last fall for the first time since 2002. Megan said of all the accolades she is most proud of that team championship.
“I can’t believe how much support I’ve gotten from my school. I love representing Northview,” she said. “I love the team part of it. I love the sleepovers and the dinners.”
Susie said in the offseason when Megan competes in matches during United States Tennis Association tournaments, it is strictly an individual sport. She said her daughter embraces the team aspect of playing for her high school.
“She’s always thinking about the team,” Susie said. “She loves her team and her teammates have been so supportive.”
Megan has represented Northview at the state tournament as a freshman and junior. She lost in the first round as a freshman and made it to the second round last fall.
Susie said the seeding and draw will be crucial to her fortunes at state.
“There are such strong players in Cincinnati,” Susie said. “She could draw the state champ. We would like to see her win two rounds.”
Megan went 18-5 as a freshman, reached the district final and lost in the first round at state. As a sophomore she was 20-3 and lost in the district semifinals. Last season she posted a 25-1 record with her only loss coming in the second round of the state tournament. She earned all-state second team honors. Her losses at state both came after matches that lasted three-plus hours.
“It will be hard,” Megan said. “I'm expecting the competition to be very good. I'm starting to do extra practices. Now is the peak of the season. You just keep going. I hope to make it to Saturday. That is my goal. I just have to keep working. States are like a USTA tournament. It’s the best of the best.”
Megan, who is ranked 12th in the state of Ohio, said no matter how long she has played, there is always something to work on.
“I could improve on my net game,” she said. “I have big ground strokes. I don't always follow into the net.”
She said the hardest part of the intense sport is the mental part.
“I will stick to my guns and play my game,” she said. “Growing up I was just kind of a regular tennis player. I was kind of average.
"But I’ve worked really hard. As I started to put more time in and got even more dedicated, I’m amazed at how far I’ve gone. To think I will be playing in college, I’m beyond excited.”