Soccer 'Super Seniors' Savor Their WSU Experience

Nov. 4, 2005

The crowd went nuts as the ball deflected back into play. WSU keeper Katie Hultin had lunged to her left and stopped an impossibly well placed penalty kick shot to keep the Cougars alive in a tight match. As play resume and the ball was safely in opponent's territory, reserve keeper Meghan Miller yelled Hultin's name from the sideline. Hearing the familiar voice, Hultin looked over as Miller beamed and pointed in her direction and the two redshirt seniors shared a quick moment in the last home match of their WSU careers. Its safe to say the two keepers have had many such moments in their five seasons with Cougar soccer and Hultin and Miller we're kind enough to stop by Sports Information recently and share a few moments with us.

Sports Information: What brought you to WSU?
Meghan Miller: Well, my family have been Cougars for forever, so that obviously hade a huge impact. The soccer program wasn't that great when I started looking at colleges, so I really wasn't even thinking about coming here, but then I got recruited and came on my trip and I was just sold.
Katie Hultin: I really had no intentions on coming here. I was totally against coming on my recruiting trip because I was set on going somewhere else. The coach here told me to come, that it didn't even have to be for 48 hours, so I came for my 24 hours and fell in love with the people and the place. It was everything I didn't want but I fell in love with it.
MM: It was undeniable (both laugh)
KH: It was perfect.

SI: Freshman year, you were obviously adjusting to college life but also playing college soccer. What do you remember about that first year?
MM: I remember coming into soccer and being like `Oh My God' because the level is so much higher. And holy cow, Linsdey [Jorgensen] was good, I mean GOOD, so there was no way we were gonna play. Freshman year was just like a shocker. School was harder, but I loved being a student here and the whole atmosphere of football weekends and going to watch other athletes play. Being an athlete here was just like dream come true. For my family to be able to say that someone actually played sports here, it was just cool to be involved like that. Being an athlete in this town, you just wear your gear and people are like `whoa.' It was just an awesome experience.
KH: My freshman year was similar. I mean independence was huge. Then in soccer, like Meghan said, Lindsey was just God. We just bowed down to her. (Miller laughs and nods in agreement) We were both kind of thrown to the side everyday in practice and just watched a lot and got yelled at a lot cause we couldn't do certain things the upperclassmen could. It was just such an experience. It was so different, so different. You know, practice everyday, meetings, everything I had always dreamed about. It was awesome. I remember before coming here, former Cougs would tell me that I would learn about what it means to bleed crimson and gray. And I was like yeah, whatever. Like how can you be that into it? But I got here and like a week later I knew exactly what they meant. It was like once a Coug, always a Coug.

SI: I sat down with Lindsey Jorgensen, your current assistant coach and freshman year teammate and asked her what she remembered about you two that first year. She remembers two wide-eyed kids who couldn't serve a ball and got yelled at a lot! (Both laugh heartedly)
MM: It was like every little trivial thing that we take for granted now, we just couldn't do when we were freshmen. We could not consistently serve a driven ball into someone's hands. It was just not something I had ever done before.
KH: We didn't need to work on our keeper skills, we had to work on training other keepers. Yeah, we got in trouble a lot. And now, I think about it and I get mad now too. Like last year I would get mad at Brynn [Bemis].
MM: Yeah, yeah!
KH: In my head, I'd get really mad and be like, (angry voice) `Serve me a ball!' Ya know and I would think, I was just like that! Just didn't know what to expect.

SI: Was it helpful to have each other going through the same experience that first year? Did you rely on each other or was there more competition?
KH: I don't know if we relied on each other or if we competed. Neither of us knew about each other coming in. We didn't know that they were recruiting another keeper, so we were just like well, alright. So, we just stuck together because we got pushed aside in training and just accepted it.
MM: I remember coming in the first day and they place the freshmen with upperclassmen and you stay with them and they put both of us in the same house. We each didn't know there was another goalkeeper coming in and that was just a huge shocker. We were just like, `Did you know?'
KH: (chimes in with mock surprise) `Did you know?'
SI: The betrayal!
MM: (laughs) Kind of! You know, we are the same position, same year. So there was that moment of being like, ok. I mean, there were four of us [goalkeepers] our freshman year, so we never even got close to the field.
KH: It was fine. I mean, we did alright, but it was really weird being like, there's another keeper!
MM: Yeah, it was weird. I feel like we stuck together but we are totally different so we had our own ways of coping with things.

SI: Did you know you were going to redshirt your freshman year?
KH: I was told half way through the season that that was the idea but I didn't want to. I was bitter and I didn't understand redshirting really.
MM: It was like, (with disgust) Why would I stay a fifth year? My Gosh.
KH: Yeah, it was like, `I wanna be done.' Back then if you redshirted in the fall you couldn't play in the spring and I wanted to play in the spring because the only reason we didn't play in the fall was because we didn't have experience. So it was like how am I suppose to get experience? Now, I'm glad I redshirted. I don't know what I would have done with myself if I was done last year.

Katie Hultin (Denver, Colo.) is a biology major and owns the Cougar career shutout record with 20 solo shutouts.

SI: Now that you have it, are you glad to be back for this fifth season?
MM: I think so. Going into my senior year, my last senior year, I didn't necessarily know if I was going to comeback for this fifth year, but the team just grew on me. The younger class, they just kept me there and kept me loving the game. So when they mentioned me coming back, there was just no doubt. My experience is different because of my injury. I feel like I'm more of coach figure because that's how I can help out now that I'm not out their with them on the field. It's given me a different perspective.
KH: I'm really glad I got the fifth year. All of our class and our friends, the people two years older, everyone's gone! The true senior class now, they're awesome and I think getting to know the freshmen last year so the sophomores this year, made it easier to except. The team is AWESOME. The personalities, the character is just incredible to be around.

SI: Your careers at WSU have developed different. Meghan, you've been mostly kept on the sideline battling injury and Katie, you've step into a statring position. Lindsey talked about you each playing very key, but very different roles. Tell me, and I'm going to make you talk about each other, what do think the other brings to your Cougar experience?
KH: (with a grin) I'll start. From the beginning, obviously we were competing for playing time and everything, but no doubt Meghan has made me who I am on the field. Everyday she's pushed me to be better, because if the people we compete against for a position aren't great, you could slack off everyday. Meghan has pushed me daily. Every half-time she's there and I'm like `Meghan what do you see?' And she'll give me a new perspective. During the middle of a game, she'll come down and yell at me to do this. I know that she's a keeper and she knows what I see. We understand each other!
MM: Yeah (with a laugh)
KH: I don't know what I would do without her because I don't know if I could approach another keeper and be like what do you see? And they'd be like well, you're doing fine. But Meghan is honest and I appreciate that. She's definitely been a huge part of my experience here.
MM: (deep breath) I'm blushing! I would say what I get from Katie is that competitive edge. We battle everyday. You know, man, I see her come up with a big save and I'm like I've got to do better! I've got to prove I can keep up. Once she gets in the game, Katie just fights. She steps up to the challenge. It's like she'll go out and kill someone to get the ball! (Hultin laughs) I had to learn that. I had to learn to let loose and go after it. I was always hesitant before. She taught me how to be a better competitor. It was just like get tough! Come on! I don't know if I would have got to this level without that kind of competition. She set the standard and I had to play up to that.

SI: You've talked about how you've influenced each other, now what do you think the other brings to the team?
MM: Like I said, she sets a standard. When Katie finally got the chance to get on the field, she proved herself. A lot of people may sit there and say `Man, I'm not getting playing time,' but when Katie went out there, she proved that she was the one that belonged there. It just showed everyone that when you get your chance, you better take advantage. She's a huge leader on the field. She takes control. It's so important for the team to see that, because you have to communicate. Its such an important aspect of the game and having someone out there and seeing how they do it shows people what the standard is.
KH: Like Lindsey said, Meghan cares so much about everyone. We almost refer to her as a team mom. (Miller has good laugh at the description) She takes care of everyone. You know, Meghan sits in front of me on the bus every trip and she's the quietest person on the bus but she affects me every time. I don't know why, but every time I'm like, I should really relax. But the biggest impact Meghan has is she has shown that no matter if you play or not, you can step up every practice. It's easy, if you don't play, to just be like whatever, who cares, but everyday Meghan competed and everyone saw it. She stepped up to the challenge everyday. It's like saying to the field players that are complaining about not getting playing time or nor getting enough playing time, get real! Meghan is there everyday and shows everyone that it doesn't matter, you've got to keep pushing yourself and compete everyday. Like she said, if she makes a big save, I've got to make a big save now, ya know. She makes people better. Her knee injury, I hurt for her! It's a hard thing, but she's made people better because of it. It's a blessing in disguise in a way. She's still a mentor to Brynn and me. She's still there everyday with a smile on her face and it's awesome.

SI: Where do you see soccer fitting in when your time here at WSU is done?
KH: Um, soccer and my life...It will take me awhile to accept the fact that my collegiate athletic career is over, but I don't know what I'm doing with my future yet as far as grad school or if I'm going to got to go grow up and get a job, but I have gained a great passion for coaching and making a difference on a team or with a team. Even this season, maybe it's because I'm older, but I see so many things I never saw before. Matt and Lindsey are great coaches and I've taken so much from them. Depending what I do in the next year will decide on like what kind of coach. I think I want to coach older kids, collegiate level, high school or club. But yeah, (laughs) I think I really need to coach.
MM: Yeah, I think so too. (much laughter) She's not ready to be done!
KH: I think I might be ready to be done after this season playing keeper because I don't know if my body can handle much more of it. I want to keep playing and like all my friends go play indoor and that's going to be so much fun. And in my next life, I'm going to become a field player. Get fit...
MM: (laughs) and be fast!
KH: (laughing) And be fast. I need to be fast to be a field player. But I think I'll be ready to be done at the end of the season with the daily stresses, but I still want to be involved in soccer.
MM: It's funny because I never thought that I would want to coach. Everyone always said you're gonna coach when you're done, but for my first half of college, I really don't think I want to. Soccer had been a really intense experience and I wasn't sure I was ready for that. But every summer, I'd coach camps here and kids come back every year and it grows on you. You see the impact you can have and how much they just love that experience. It has made me want to coach so much. I'm going to be a teacher, so it obviously kind of comes with the territory. And then, staying this extra year, I feel like I've become a coach in a weird way. The entire experience and then having this last year really has impacted my decision, that yes, I want to coach and that I can have a positive impact.
SI: Do you think that while the injuries were difficult, they helped you gain that perspective?
MM: I definitely agree with that. The coaches sat me down in the spring and they were like yeah, this sucks so bad that you have to go through this, but the way you react to this is going to have such an affect on everyone else. The way you carry yourself everyday and heal and push yourself to get better, the affect that will have on everyone else is immeasurable. It's just such huge thing to have so that people could say, if that ever happened to me or wow she's working so hard, I'm going to do that too. The whole spring, being able to watch everything, from daily habits to the result in the game, I've never been able to get a coaches perspective like that. So yeah, yes it has [given me perspective], as crappy as it is.

Meghan Miller (Kent, Wash.) is an elementary education major and earned the team strength and conditioning award in 2004.

SI: What do you take with you when you leave WSU? What will stick with you the most?
MM: A huge step for me when Matt came into coach and the whole transition of not having a coach as a dictator but actually having a coach that encourages you, and he says its corny, but to be the best you can be in soccer, school and life. Matt wants you to be a better person and that transitioned my whole college experience. For example, for one of my classes I had to write a children's book and I took the Polar Express and changed it to the Cougar Express and they took the train to Pullman and Butch was Santa Claus, etc. Matt has a four-year-old daughter, Cassidy, and he asked for copy of for her. I was reluctant and I didn't want it judged and I was nervous about it being a failure. He took it home and then told me they read it every night and Cassidy just loves it. And that was just huge. It made me realize that I really am going to have an affect on the kids that I teach. My last three years has totally changed me. Matt and Lindsey helped me find my calling and reassure me that its going to be ok and that you're going to awesome at it. That's what I'll take with me, that encouragement.
KH: Matt and Lindsey have helped me gain great respect for coaching in general. Our coaches are two people you can approach on a daily basis if you have a problem and get a response whether it be advice or a little chuckle, and they still make you feel good in the end. On the field, they make me want to work hard. Lindsey plays a ball and is like come on, get it and you just want to do it! They have a way of getting us to dig deep and that's something I'll take with me, that feeling, ya know, when Matt is doing his pre-game speeches and I can't hold back a smile. But, for me, the thing that will stick with me for forever, probably literally, (laughs) is the team. Being part of a team of friends, best friends, and having a family away from home. I mean, I'm far away from home and I talk to my parents every night but this is group of girls is unforgettable. I will not forget any of them and will stay in contact with most. Its like we love every second together and we'd do anything for each other.
MM: You know, we'd been on teams our whole life, but had never spent every single day with the same group of people day-in and day-out, working our butts off until this experience. I have four brothers so I don't like girls. (Hultin bursts into laughter and laughs knowingly through the rest of Meghan's comment) Like I can handle being around girls all the time, it drives me crazy. But for some reason, I can tolerate a Kim Bonnes who is like the most girly girl and complains about everything but I just love her to death. And then there is Angie [Fajardo] who just says the random comments, and you are like oh my gosh and just laugh and shake it off because you're like `I just love `em.' Definitely something I'll never forget.
KH: One thing about our team that just adds to the character that we'll never forget, especially this year, we have a quote board. (Miller's turn to burst into laughter) Oh my gosh! And that's our team right there...people just say things and its just ridiculous! But that's who we love. We'd play, fight or do anything for them, no matter what dumb things they say, they are still part of our family. We not only play together everyday, we live the same complex. (laughs) We really don't have any other friends.
MM: (laughing) We do...
KH: (laughs) But we choose not to hang out with them cause they're not as cool.

Hultin, Miller and the rest of their Cougar soccer cohorts wrap up the 2005 regular season against Washington, Nov. 4 as they vie for a berth in the NCAA tournament.

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