By David Fong
Regional Sports Editor
TROY — Ciena Miller hopes to one day put brighter smiles on the faces of everyone she meets.
For now, though, the Troy High School senior will settle for putting smiles on the faces of the members of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis women’s soccer coaching staff.
“Ever since I was little, my mom made me fill out a sheet saying what I wanted to do when I got older,” Miller said. “She was looking the other day and found my sheet from second grade. On it, I said I wanted to be a dentist and I wanted to be a soccer player.”
Last week, Miller took a major step toward making both of those dreams come true when she signed her national letter of intent to attend school and player soccer at IUPUI. While there, she has big dreams — Miller hopes to finish her undergraduate studies in three years and begin dental school while finishing out her Division I soccer career.
“The Indiana (University) dental school is actually on their campus,” Miller said. “Two of my uncles are dentists, and it’s just something I’ve always been interested in. I can’t really explain it; I just know I’ve always wanted to be a dentist. I think it’s fascinating.”
Early in her high school career, it certainly appeared Miller was on the fast track toward accomplishing at least half of her two-pronged dream of being a college soccer player and future dentist. After earning varsity playing time as a freshman, Miller had a monster sophomore season, scoring 10 goals — including back-to-back hat tricks against Stebbins and West Carrollton — and adding five assists. Following the season, she was named All-Ohio, All-Dayton and was one of two sophomores named All-Greater Western Ohio Conference.
It seemed as though she was well on her way to achieving everything she had dreamed of — until a devastating knee injury the following February she suffered while playing for her club team changed all of that.
Miller would miss her entire junior high school season and began to wonder if the door had closed on her chances of playing high-level college soccer.
“I was definitely worried I wouldn’t get the chance to play in college,” Miller said. “I didn’t know what my future was going to be. It was definitely something I was nervous about.”
Miller would spend most of her junior year rehabbing her surgically repaired knee. By the time last fall rolled around, Miller was ready to play again her senior season. Despite missing an entire year of competitive soccer, Miller responded with five goals and eight assists, good enough for All-Greater Western Ohio Conference American League second-team honors.
“Ciena is a gifted soccer player who has earned this opportunity after her many hours of training and working hard to get back on the field after missing her junior year due to injury,” Troy girls soccer coach Michael Rasey said. “IUPUI is getting an all-state caliber player that immediately will make their program better. She represents everything good about our program and what it means to be a Troy Trojan, and as her coach, I couldn’t be any more proud of her.”
Still, though, Miller didn’t know if it had been enough to attract the attention of college coaches, many of whom make their scholarship decisions regarding players when they are juniors.
“I just knew that I had to work hard, and if I ended up not being able to play, I could still go to Ohio State, which also has a great dental school,” Miller said.
A few months ago, however, IUPUI came through with an offer for Miller to play soccer while also pursuing her dream of becoming a dentist.
“I was so excited,” she said. “My voice started trembling when I was talking to the coach on the phone.”
After that, though, she was all smiles.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong