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Published: Tuesday, 10/18/2011

Northview tennis star's coach is mom

Close-net Miller family scores high on love, commitment to sport

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The Blade/Sean WorkMegan Millerand her mother, Susie Miller, share a laugh at Northview High School's tennis courts in Sylvania. Susie is Megan's coach in addition to being her mother. The Blade/Sean WorkMegan Millerand her mother, Susie Miller, share a laugh at Northview High School's tennis courts in Sylvania. Susie is Megan's coach in addition to being her mother.
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Megan Miller comes from a tennis family, and that close connection has led to plenty of success on the courts for the Northview sophomore.

Miller defended her Northern Lakes League No. 1 singles title this season and captured a second straight Division I sectional title.

Miller, 15, is coached by her mother, Susie, on the Wildcats' varsity team. She also plays regularly with her father, Greg, and her younger brother Nick, 4. The Sylvania family often hits balls in the driveway together.

"It's nice to have that as a family," Megan said. "It helps connect us because we can do it as a family."

Miller, who has been playing tennis since age 7, broke on to the high school scene in a big way last season as a freshman. She went 18-3, won the NLL title, and qualified for the state tournament.

"We're a tennis family," said Susie Miller, who also teaches private lessons. "We took a different approach with Megan. At first we wanted [tennis] to be more social for her. We try to balance it. But she is very competitive. She has enjoyed it from day one and she still enjoys it today. But she has a great work ethic and determination."

Going into last weekend's district tournament, Miller (18-1) has lost just once this season. She dropped an early season match to St. Ursula Academy freshman Kennedy Shaffer.

On Sept. 28, Miller successfully defended her No. 1 singles NLL title with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Southview's Jenna Haidar.

"It was really exciting to win it as a freshman and it was just as exciting this year," Megan said. "It was a great win for the school and I love to represent Northview."

Megan said tennis is primarily an individual sport, so she relishes competing alongside of her classmates.

"I love playing for a team," Megan said. "Tennis is a sport you pretty much do by yourself. You go to a tournament and it is just you. When you go with a team, people support you. I think it gives me a lot more motivation."

Last season Megan represented Northview at the state tournament after qualifying as a freshman.

In the first round, Miller lost to a fellow freshman in a lengthy battle. Amina Ismail of Kings Mill Kings defeated Miller in three sets. Miller won the first set 6-3, but then dropped the last two sets 6-2 and 6-2.

"It was a great match," Susie Miller said. "It was two and a half hours long. There were so many great points. I was happy with the way she played."

Megan also said she performed well but said she still was frustrated that she lost.

"I knew I could have done better. My nature is to think I could have done better," Megan said. "The match was long. I went for it and she went for it. I use that match to base what I need to work on."

Miller started her postseason run in near perfection this season. She dropped just one game in the sectional tournament. She swept all three opponents in straight sets. In the final she beat Perrysburg's Kylene Boos 6-0, 6-0 to earn a spot in the district tournament.

"I expected her to be excited for the season," Susie said. "It is the only time she gets to be part of a team. It was so new last year. We had goals but we didn't expect her to do what she did until the season got going."

Coach Miller said the goal for Megan this year was to go undefeated in NLL play and win the title. Megan did both.

"Her goal is to go to state again," Susie said. "She's a lot more confident this year."

Megan said her experience last year has allowed her to find "different ways to try to beat players" once she reaches that level.

"Boy, do I hate losing," Megan admitted. "I come off the court so mad. But if it is a good player, I just try to do my best and still try to win every point. I am always going to fight. That is my nature."

But Megan said she doesn't keep track of her record.

"It's not a big deal as long as I play well and do my best," Megan said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Susie Miller, who played at Bowling Green State University, has been teaching tennis since she left college.

She first coached with her brother David Willingham at the Courts of Sylvania Tennis Club. She now teaches private lessons at Laurel Hill Swim and Tennis Club.

Ms. Miller has been coaching at the high school level for 18 years. She spent her first 11 years at St. Ursula before moving on to coach at Northview.

Her husband, Greg, also plays at a high level of competitive tennis. And Megan just recently started hitting balls with her younger brother Nick in the family's driveway.

"He loves it. Megan taught him," Ms. Miller said.

Megan said her brother learned from simply observing her at matches.

"He knows how to hit a forehand, backhand, everything. He always wants to go out and play. He loves tennis," Megan said.

Ms. Miller has taught Megan since she was 7. She won her first major tournament when she was 11.

Ms. Miller travels with her daughter all winter and summer during United States Tennis Association tournaments. But the organization's rules prohibit her from coaching during those sanctioned matches.

"Now all the sudden I can coach her [during the high school season] and it is really fun," she said. "She bounces things off of me. I am a sounding board. I can make adjustments to her game. It works out real nice."

Megan said she loves forming a game plan with her mom/coach.

"During the season I love to talk to her," Megan said. "If I get too upset and need advice she can calm me down. She figures things out. If something is not working right, she can tell me what I'm doing wrong and I try it. It helps me become a better player."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade



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