RELATIONSHIPS OVER RESULTS: Millennium girls soccer wins because of its close bond, not the other way around

The Millennium High School girls soccer team runs through sprinting drills during practice on Jan. 9 at Millennium High School in Goodyear. [Jacob Stanek/ West Valley Preps]


What: Millennium girls soccer Sell Out Night against Buckeye Verrado

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24 (West Valley Preps will cover this game)

Where: Millennium High School, 14802 W. Wigwam Blvd., Goodyear

Special Price: Tickets are $1 and the program is hoping to have more than 3,000 spectators.

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

The thrill of a big victory remains a day or two. Friendships often last far beyond high school.

In David Cameron’s four years as Millennium girls soccer coach, relationships between players has been the foundation. And winning has been a by-product.

In their last two years, the Tigers finished with a combined 23-1-1 regular season record, before losing to Chandler in the first round of the playoffs both time. But, as Cameron stated in an email, the program made even greater strides in his primary goal, “building life lasting relationships through soccer.”

By that evaluation, 2018-19 is already a success to the coach. Millennium girls soccer is 13-1-1 overall with titles in the Maroon division of the AZ Soccer Showcase and the Aztec Invitational and 6-1 in the regular season. The team is a legitimate 5A title contender with a No. 6 ranking — but players and coaches see that as icing, not the cake.

“It would be an awesome memory to go far and win a state title but that only lasts a moment. The relationships they are building this season will last for a lifetime,” Cameron stated. “That is our focus — ‘Build Relationships that last a Lifetime.’”

On the field, the only goal of the senior class appears to be to perform its best in the playoffs and erase the memories of the past two seasons.

As senior fullback Megan Kirker said, players learn more from losses than wins.

“The end of last year was really crushing because the year before we had lost to the same team. We want to make sure it did not happen again. Most of the team is back from last year,” Kirker said.

Kirker is part of the team’s deadly four-pronged attack that averaged nearly seven goals per game through Jan. 16. She has 20 goals, tied for the team lead sophomore Gabriella Sangillo.

Kirker’s current and future teammate — at NAU — senior forward Kiana Miyazato has 14 goals. And junior Anacel Valenzuela-Acosta had 16 at mid-month.

“I would say the underclassmen have made a huge impact this year — Marion Rice, Anacel Acosta, Gabby Sangillo — they’ve done really well,” Miyazato said.

She said the Tigers are a possession team that likes to get numbers back. When Millennium counter attacks, the team gets forward quickly.

Defensively, the team shut out 11 straight opponents until a 3-0 loss at Scottsdale Desert Mountain Jan. 11.

“Our team style is to attack quickly and play foot to foot beautiful soccer. We have a lot of technical players on this team and we want to showcase it,” Cameron stated.

With only four seniors graduated from the 2017-18 squad, the regulars have developed their chemistry through years of playing together.

“We figured out how to play together. We each have our own individual strengths but when we put it together, we play a lot better,” junior forward Karis Stull said. “This year we all cooperate with each other and we’re all more of a family. It’s not only influence on the practice field, but the game field too.”

And the pipeline for this traditional Southwest Valley girls soccer power is not running dry.

“We have a lot of incoming freshman that are making an immediate impact. Mia Figueroa is starting as a freshman at center back, which is not easy to do. Krystal Sanchez, Gabby Sangillo and Ann Marie Murphy are sophomores that are really leading our next generation of Millennium Tigers for years to come,” Cameron stated.

Early on, Millennium was far too much for its new 5A foes, winning each of its first five games by at least five goals.

Even with the drop in competition, Cameron noticed something unique and improved about this group.

“I realized this team was special after the first three weeks of the season during team building activities, they really cared about others and embraced a family like atmosphere,” he stated.

Competition stiffened during winter break. After routs of Gilbert Higley and Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep, the Tigers played Liberty to a scoreless draw but won the round robin tournament based on goal differential.

Millennium then went 4-0 at the Copper Canyon Jan. 3-5, beating old 6A rivals O’Connor (2-0) and Chandler Basha (3-0) to lift that trophy.

“It was a crazy weekend, but it was amazing to see how much we could do in such a little amount of time,” Kirker said.

The roll stopped, at least temporarily at No. 3 Desert Mountain. But Cameron stated the timing of the loss, and the girls’ response to it, were as ideal as a team could have.

It is all part of the equation for success, he stated, which comes from paying attention to every little detail — how the team treat each other, warms up, communicates, defends and attacks and how the Tigers deal with wins and losses.

“Friday’s loss was perfect timing for our program. The way they handled it and stayed focused and positive was amazing. Our bus ride home was as if we won, you couldn’t tell the difference it was very cool to see,” Cameron said.

In part, that atmosphere is fed by the unique and fun approach the program takes. After all, can you name another high school girls soccer team with a regular podcast?

While that’s partly owing to Cameron’s hobby — he also serves as the Phoenix College men’s soccer coach — Millennium girls soccer also frequently posts videos to Twitter and Facebook Live.

The Tigers will host Verrado on Jan. 24 for their fourth annual Sell Out Night. Tickets are $1 and the goal is to set a high school girls soccer attendance record with between 3,000 and 4,000 fans.

Then the state tournament looms, with the Tigers likely to host a first-round game Feb. 9. The 5A final is Feb. 20 at Coronado High School in Scottsdale and this group would love to get there — if only to keep playing together.

“This season has been so much fun. So to get that far into the season — especially for the seniors — would be great,” Stull said.

More than anything, Cameron enjoys this group because it embraces the importance of relationship building fully and extends it beyond the varsity.

“These girls are special because they are so accepting of all who come in contact with them. I never seen that before. Usually you have cliques and class separation or varsity and JV separation. It is not that way. I have coached a long time and have never see this before.,” Cameron stated.

The Millennium High School girls soccer team goes through passing drills during practice on Jan. 9 at Millennium High School in Goodyear. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

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