When he was a freshman in high school, Colton-Pierreponts Craig Miller was handed a goalie stick by boys lacrosse coach Jim Nee.
According to Miller, Nees logic was that Miller was goalie on the boys soccer team so they might as well see how he performed as a goalie in lacrosse.
It turns out it was a wise move by Nee, as Miller, now a senior, has become one of the top goalies in the area, earning second-team status on last years Times All-North boys lacrosse team.
He has really great hands and good hand-eye coordination, Nee said. He was pretty natural in terms of the hand-eye coordination that he had. He also has limited fear in having a very hard ball thrown at him very fast.
Said Miller of the move, It was a lot different going from soccer to lacrosse. The ball was a lot harder in lacrosse and it made me a lot quicker to not get hit.
Miller has been a starter ever since his freshman year for the Colts program, which is only seven years old. He now serves as the team captain.
Hes a great leader, Nee said. He provides a lot of leadership for our students and his peers. Hes an all-around good person. Ive enjoyed coaching him in soccer and lacrosse and he has a lot of potential. Hes a very bright young man.
Miller is not only one of the top goalies in the Northern Athletic Conference, he also may be the goalie who gets the most work. Colton-Pierrepont, while still new to the sport, also is the smallest school in the NAC with a team.
As a result the rewards have not come for the Colts like they do for others. Colton-Pierrepont went 0-15 last year.
Getting a lot more shots, you get a lot more practice, Miller said. Playing for Colton-Pierrepont has helped me there. I dont think I would have developed as well as I have as a goalie (with another school).
Miller and Nee are realistic as a new season begins and dont base their hopes for the team only on victories.
As a team leader I do my work and I know (teammates) are trying hard to do their side of the game, Miller said. Just effort from them means enough to me. Im not worried about wins and losses. We have a smaller school and we dont have a lot of numbers. Ive noticed when I walk around though I always see younger kids with sticks in their hands. That means the program can only develop stronger and stronger each year.
Said Nee, Its still about growth and learning and learning how to compete and how to win the little games within a game, whether it be from the faceoff, wing play or learning how to put it all together and play a complete game. Were now starting to compete a little bit more for an entire game. Were still a long way off.
Nee knows about success. He was a standout player at Canton High School and then became the all-time leading scorer at Le Moyne College.
Hes not only helped my game, but everybodys game, Miller said of Nee. He was a really good player and hes a great coach. He knows people around the area to help us out.
Miller plans to compete in lacrosse next year and said hes leaning toward attending Johnson State College in Johnson, Vt.
The campus is really nice, Miller said. Its on top a big hill and the scenery all around is mountains. Its a smaller campus, which is what I was looking for. Its like Colton away from Colton.
Salmon River dominated Section 10 a year ago and should be strong again this year.
The Shamrocks went 13-0 in the Northern Athletic Conference, routed Canton 23-7 in the Class C championship game and wound up reaching the state quarterfinals.
Canton, which went 11-3 last year, should be strong again and Massena, St. Lawrence Central and Potsdam figure to fight for the final two spots in the top half of the standings.
Salmon River returns senior attacker Dalston Day, who scored 59 goals with 32 assists last year. Salmon River also returns senior defenseman Brady Mitchell.
Other key returnees include St. Lawrence Centrals Blake Baldwin, Massenas Kyle Cooke and Colton-Pierreponts Miller.
For the girls, Massena was undefeated a year ago and the Red Raiders figure to be strong again this year. Massena is led by senior attacker Erin Francis, who scored 70 goals last year and will play for Syracuse next season.
Potsdam, Canton and Ogdensburg Free Academy will try to topple Massena for the top spot in Section 10.
Other top individuals returning in Section 10 include Massenas Steffanie Premo and Alisha Jacobs, Potsdams Kalie Grant and Annette Rishe and OFAs Kaitlyn Sheppard.