When London Miller was 6 or 7 years old, she suffered a pretty traumatic experience playing the sport she has since grown to love.

“I got hit in the face (with the ball) and said I would never play again,” Miller explained.

It’s fair to say several people are happy the daughter of Annie and Jason Miller changed her mind. That’s because the Providence native has excelled playing soccer at the club and high school level.

In fact, Miller just put together the kind of season that most high school players only dream about. The senior scored a whopping 36 goals and dished out an impressive 17 assists for a Ridgeline side that went 15-4-1 and was one victory away from capturing a 4A state championship.

“London was a threat from almost anywhere in our offensive third of the field,” Ridgeline head coach Mark Tureson said. “She thrived running at defenders with the ball, but could also place a shot in the top corner from distance. Her goal output this year was impressive, but her assist numbers showed that she was a team player.”

Only two high school players from the Beehive State amassed more goals than Miller during the 2019 campaign. No. 10 recorded hat tricks against Dixie, Wasatch, Woods Cross, Viewmont and Sky View, but proved she was much more than a volume goal scorer. Miller found the back of the net in 17 of the Riverhawks’ 20 matches, plus she facilitated at least one goal in 12 games.

For her offensive excellence, coupled with her splendid leadership skills, Miller has been named The Herald Journal All-Valley Player of the Year. The forward is the first Ridgeline girls soccer athlete to receive this award.

“It’s kind of surreal, I guess, but I’m just super grateful and it’s just another great thing to end the season with,” Miller said.

As fun as it was to embark on a goal-scoring rampage, Miller enjoyed bonding with her Ridgeline coaches and teammates even more this past season.

“My coaches and my team were just so amazing this year,” Miller said. “The coaches, they handled different girls with different personalities so well, and they came to every practice ready to work us and we trusted in them. They always told us to just trust in them ... and that ended up getting us to the championship game, and even though we lost it was all about the journey. The journey was unforgettable and I wouldn’t change a thing, so I’m so blessed for them and for the most amazing teammates. They’re my best friends and they’re all going to go amazing places and do amazing things.”

Indeed, the journey was marvelous for Miller and the other Ridgeline seniors. That’s because this senior class has been a part of some talented teams, but with the exception of the 2016 squad — one that earned back-to-back road wins in the 3A State Championships and advanced to the semifinals — the Riverhawks had faltered in the playoffs.

Ridgeline started off strong in 2017 and 2018, but lost in the first round of the state tournament after looking like legitimate title contenders in the early going. Miller and the other Riverhawk 12th-graders were extremely motivated to buck that trend this past fall.

“We came to every practice ready to work, we had our goals in mind and we wanted to make it to the state championship game after working our butts off every single day,” Miller said. “... And I think being super good friends and having such a good bond with each other really helped us this year.”

The Riverhawks navigated through an extremely challenging Region 11 and clinched their first-ever region championship with a 2-1 double overtime road victory over rival Mountain Crest on Oct. 8. Miller netted the golden goal.

“Winning region was probably the best moment of my life because this region is so tough,” Miller said. “Every school is literally so good. Our motto is every game is a championship game this season, and so we had to play every game like it was because the talent was unreal. And so, scoring that last goal in that final second and getting to hold the trophy up with my teammates and my school was just the best feeling ever. I wish I could relive that every day.”

No. 10 also buried the game-winning goal late in the second half of Ridgeline’s thrilling 3-2 triumph over Region 9 champion Desert Hills in the semifinals of the state tourney.

Miller’s speed, experience and technical ability was on display throughout her prep career — she was a four-year starter for the Riverhawks — but it was her tenacity that set her apart from other first-rate players. The future Utah Valley University forward has developed into one of Cache Valley’s most well-rounded players in recent memory, if not ever.

“London’s skill, speed and tactical awareness is fueled by her work rate and desire to compete,” Tureson said. “She was always willing to put in the extra effort that was necessary to see the team succeed on and off the field. She set a high standard as a tireless competitor and a leader on our team.”

In addition to helping propel Ridgeline to the 4A championship match, Miller was a key cog for her La Roca club team, which won four State Cup titles, placed second on two occasions at regionals and finished third once at nationals. The first-team all-state selection started competing at the Weber County-based club when she was in the fifth grade.

Up next for Miller is a collegiate career at UVU. No. 10 verbally committed to the Wolverines after her freshman season at Ridgeline and honored that long-time commitment by signing with UVU last month.

“It’s super bittersweet that my high school season’s over,” said Miller, who scored multiple goals in 12 matches as a senior. “That was by far the best part of high school, but I am so excited for this next chapter in my life at Utah Valley. I love all of the girls committed there and the coaches, and I’m just excited to try something new down in the Orem area. And I get to keep playing my favorite sport for another four years.”

Regardless of what happens in the future, Miller will always cherish her time representing the Riverhawks.

“Playing for Ridgeline has been an honor and we had the best student section,” she asserted.

NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR

Amalia Fonua, Fr., Sky View

This freshman made an immediate impact for the Bobcats and she was definitely one of their best players on both sides of the ball in the postseason.

Fonua, who played on the backline, in the midfield and up top for Sky View this past fall, finished with three goals and three assists

Coach’s comment: “Amalia loves the game of soccer and loves playing it. She is a player that works 100 percent all of the time and knows what it means to be a team player. Her energy is contagious and she encourages her teammates to work hard. She works well under pressure and would create options for herself and her teammates to score.”

UTILITY PLAYER

Annie Naser, Sr., Mtn. Crest

Naser was one of the most consistent performers on a Mountain Crest squad that nearly made it to the 4A title match in 2018, and her versatility was arguably even more evident one year later.

The honorable mention all-state selection spent the first part of the ‘19 campaign as a starting outside back before giving the Mustangs a big boost as a holding midfielder. Naser dished out three assists and was a big reason why MC only conceded one goal or fewer in 11 matches.

Coach’s comment: “Annie has been so fun to coach. She is such a hard-working player and very coachable. She was always willing to learn new things and better herself as a player. She’s a very graceful and confident player, which makes her fun to watch.”

FORWARDS

Halle VanYperen, Jr., Ridgeline

It was a risky decision for opposing backlines to focus too much attention on Miller because of VanYperen’s scoring prowess.

The junior had a big season for the Riverhawks as she contributed with 14 goals and a trio of assists. VanYperen, who recorded a hat trick in a road match against Sky View, garnered honorable mention all-state accolades.

Coach’s comment: “Halle is a dual threat player that has the speed to run at defenders and the strength to play through physical challenges. She was fearless when working herself into the right place inside the opponent’s defense for many of her goals and assists this year.”

Bizzy Arevalo, Jr., Logan

Last year’s All-Valley Player of the Year received a ton of attention from opposing defenses in ’19, but still found a way to wreak havoc with her blazing speed and superb technical ability.

Arevalo, a second-team all-state honoree, led the Grizzlies in goals (11) and assists (nine). The versatile junior burned Bear River twice with hat tricks — the second time in the playoffs.

Coach’s comment: “Bizzy is a game-changing player and was involved in over three-fourths of our goals this season. She has an incredible ability to take people on one-v-one and has a killer shot, but was willing to play in whatever position I needed her, which was almost everywhere this year.”

Whitney Lopez, Sr., Logan

The trajectory of Logan’s season changed dramatically when this future Utah State player returned from her injury.

The Grizzlies lost seven of their first nine matches, but finished the season 6-3-0 with Lopez in the lineup. The honorable mention all-state selection, who recorded a brace in a double overtime win against Sky View, scored five goals and assisted on seven others in 10 games.

Coach’s comment: “Whitney was a big impact player for us this year. Even with missing half the season, she was involved both on and off the field. She’s a talented player who reads the game extremely well. She’s a hard worker and feisty on the ball.”

Macy Hellstern, So., Sky View

Like Fonua, Hellstern made a huge impact for the Bobcats at several different positions.

The sophomore was Sky View’s leading goal scorer with 11, and she also chipped in with one assist. Hellstern recorded braces against Bear River and Sky View, and garnered the praise of head coach Sharron Wood for her unselfishness.

Coach’s comment: “Macy has a great attitude, a great vision of the field and understands the game of soccer. She knows how to put the ball in the net with her foot or her head, yet is also able to place through balls to her teammates for scoring opportunities. ... She works hard and brings that energy to the field for practice and games.”

MIDFIELDERS

Kylie Olsen, Sr., Green Canyon

This senior was without question one of the most explosive and dynamic players in the state, and she parlayed that into a scholarship from USU.

Olsen led the Wolves in goals (17) and finished second on the team in assists (10). The first-team all-state pick had hat tricks against Parowan and Bear River, and scored twice in the 4A quarterfinals against Cedar Valley.

Coach’s comment: “She will be very missed here at GC. She is so fun to watch, so explosive with her movement. She at times is simply (unmarkable). She could have played anywhere on the field for us, but her ability to make something out of nothing makes her next level. It has been a blast coaching her and I’m looking forward to seeing her at USU.”

Abbie Kotter, Sr., Ridgeline

Having this future BYU playmaker on the field for the first time since the fall of 2016 was a huge reason why Ridgeline had a breakout season and captured their first-ever region title.

Kotter was undoubtedly one of the best facilitators in the state as she dished out 13 assists, in addition to netting nine goals. The first-team all-state honoree found the back of the net in eight different matches.

Coach’s comment: “Abbie is technically sound, quick and is a fierce competitor. However, the best word to describe her contributions both on and off the field is selfless. She is always looking to for her teammates on the field and looks for ways to lift them off the field.”

Olivia Smith, Sr., Ridgeline

This senior was one of the unsung heroes during Ridgeline’s memorable season.

The speedy track & field star only scored twice, but she was a game-changer in many ways. Smith assisted on six goals, which ranked third on the team, and set up crucial goals in nailbiting wins over Logan and Sky View.

Coach’s comment: “Olivia’s strength lies in her work rate. She got stronger as the game progressed and was able to disrupt the opponent’s midfield play from start to finish. She was a tireless box-to-box player that allowed us to earn results late in games.”

Alec Kennington, Jr., Logan

The Grizzlies might not have recovered from their rough start to the season if it wasn’t for the presence and work rate of this junior.

Kennington, a second-team all-state pick, was instrumental in keeping a short-handed Logan side together. She contributed with six goals and three assists, and netted game-winning goals in big wins over Fremont and Green Canyon.

Coach’s comment: “Alec was a big playmaker for us this year. She did the work on both sides of the ball every single game. She came up clutch many times this season, either providing the goal, the assist, or the work behind it in multiple games for us.”

Ellie Parker, Sr., Mtn. Crest

It was an up and down season for a talented Mountain Crest side, but this senior helped make the Mustangs a formidable foe in the loaded region.

Parker scored twice and dished out three assists. Two of those assists took place in Mountain Crest’s 2-1 overtime win over Green Canyon — one of only two times the Wolves conceded more than one goal in ’19.

Coach’s comment: “Ellie is a very powerful force both on and off the field (and I mean that in a good way). She has great leadership skills and was always encouraging others to be their best. Ellie was constantly looking for ways to improve in order to make herself a better player and teammate.”

Addison Moser, Jr., Preston

Preston was arguably one of the top four or five teams in Idaho’s 4A classification when this hard-nosed and skilled junior was healthy.

Unfortunately for the Indians, Moser played in just 12 of their 20 matches. In those 12 games, the junior gave the opposition fits with 17 goals and six assists. Moser posted hat tricks against Minico, Burley and Mountain Home.

Coach’s comment: “Addison made big strides this year in her ability to see the field and was much more aggressive with the ball at her feet. She is extremely talented with the ball at her feet and is a threat to score every time she receives the ball. ... I really believe the season would have turned out differently had she been able to play in the postseason.”

DEFENDERS

Kylie Larsen, Jr., Preston

This athletic three-year starter is on track to be the best center back in program history.

Not only did Larsen anchor a stingy Preston backline that earned eight clean sheets and limited five other opponents to one goal, she was a bona fide scoring threat on set pieces — whether she was taking them or getting on the end of them. The junior tallied five goals and three assists.

Coach’s comment: “Kylie is what every coach wants in a center back. She is a strong, physical presence who also made big strides this year in being a vocal, on-field leader. She gets more skilled each year and she has a great feel for the game. ... She really is a complete center back who I have no doubt will continue to get better in every area. The sky is the limit.”

Alex Baer, Jr., Ridgeline

This junior sparkled as an outside back for the Riverhawks this past season as the aggressive ball winner was also heavily involved in a potent Ridgeline attack.

Baer, a first-team all-state honoree, dished out a pair of assists and helped Ridgeline’s backline shut out five opponents and limit eight others to just one goal.

Coach’s comment: “Alex was a tireless wing defender that was eager to get up the field to provide offensive options. Defensively, Alex always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, many times stopping opponents’ runs at goal and clearing the ball off our goal line.”

McKenna Crane, Jr., Green Canyon

Like Larsen of Preston, this three-year starter is one of the most complete center backs in her classification.

Crane completely dominated teams with her ability to win 50-50 balls in the air, and this skill also gave the Wolves a big boost offensively. The first-team all-state selection buried four goals on set pieces, including one against Ridgeline.

Coach’s comment: “She is the leader of our backline. There is a reason why she has started every match since she was a freshman. She has such great footwork and body positioning. I would be hard-pressed to say that I’ve seen a better defender. She is such a weapon on set pieces. ... She totally has the ability to play at the next level.”

Talia Winder, So., Green Canyon

Winder was no doubt one of the unsung heroes on a Green Canyon squad that posted 12 shutouts on the season and limited three other opponents to a single goal.

The sophomore also dished out two assists. Winder and company was the only team to prevent Ridgeline from denting the scoreboard this season. The explosive Riverhawks only scored once in two matches against the Wolves.

Coach’s comment: “She is the most tenacious defender. She has the pace to keep up with any forward. She is so mentally strong she just wears down her opponent, but when she gets the ball she is like dynamite. She is so fast and technically awesome that sometimes it’s hard for me to play her as a center back.”

Hannah Womack, So., Sky View

It was an up-and-down season in the attack for the Bobcats, but they were rock solid defensively thanks to players like Womack.

The sophomore was a force on a Sky View backline that held 11 opponents to one goal or fewer. Womack, who found the back of the net against Dixie, was also adept with her services into the attacking third of the field.

Coach’s comment: “Hannah has a great attitude and loves to play soccer. She works hard and expected her teammates to work hard also. She always had her game face on, whether she was practicing or playing a game. She came to practice ready and always practiced to win. She worked hard to improve herself and is a great example to her teammates on and off the field.”

GOALKEEPER

Brooke Watkins, Jr., Green Canyon

Getting a ball past this athletic 6-0 junior was a formidable task for any of Green Canyon’s foes.

Watkins, who helped propel the Wolves to a 13-3-2 record, racked up 12 shutouts, which ranked second in the state regardless of classification. The junior and the rest of her GC teammates completely put the clamps on Cedar Valley’s Presley Devey, who scored 40 goals in ’19.

Coach’s comment: “I have coached some great goalies (and) Brooke stands above. She had such an amazing season. I am so proud of her. To stay that sharp for a season is special. She has always been so good at high balls, but to see her improve so much with one-v-ones and low balls, she totally is deserving of what she has accomplished.”

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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