Roosevelt’s journey to winning a girl’s state soccer championship in 2021 is something that had a magical feel to it. After all, the team had a losing record at the end of the regular season, then proceeded to win three playoff matches against teams who had beaten them previously, and then they won the state title, in a match that took 100-minutes of gameplay and six rounds of penalty kicks to decide its winner.
But what if this fairytale had even better storybook ending to its Saga? It does, and it’s about one Roosevelt player and the shot that almost didn’t happen.
Rough Riders senior Halle Miller scored the game winning goal in the title match, but because of an injury, she wasn’t allowed to play in anything but a penalty kick situation. It all started before the regular season was over in a match against Yankton.
“It was the second to last game of the season, I went down and automatically knew it was bad,” said Roosevelt senior Halle Miller. “It hurt so bad and right when my trainer came over, I was like “Am I going to be out? Am I going to be out?” And he said “yeah, it doesn’t look good.””
Miller had broken her collarbone, which meant her high school soccer career was basically over.
“I honestly just cried throughout the whole night because my senior year was over. Even if we do win, I’m not going to make an impact,” Miller stated. “Obviously, I can cheer for my team and be there for my teammates, but it’s so different doing that and then being on the field and working hard, and putting your blood, sweat, and tears into it.”
Roosevelt entered the playoffs as the No. 10 seeded team with a 4-5-2 record, but then, they started winning. The Rough Riders took down Pierre in the first round of the playoffs, beat Brandon Valley in the quarterfinals, and then Sioux Falls Lincoln in the semifinals – all one goal victories.
Right before the championship match against Rapid City Stevens, Miller wrote a letter to her surgeon and was granted clearance to play on a limited basis. But her athletic trainer with the team was more hesitant.
“My athletic trainer told me, if we make it to [penalty kicks], that’s basically the only thing I can do,” exclaimed Miller. “I was devastated because I’m like “this is not going to go into PK’s.” The chances of it going into PK’s and me being able to kick it are very slim.”
Shea Ellender of Rapid City Stevens scored midway through the first half to give the Raiders an early lead 1-0 lead. It wasn’t until around 15-minutes remaining in regulation that Roosevelt tied it up at 1-1 off a corner kick header from Camryn Wilkinson.
“The first thought that actually went on in my brain was that ‘” oh my gosh, this is going to overtime, and then it’s going to go into PKs, and what if I have to take one?” That was my first thought going through my mind,” Miller said.
The match remained tied through the 80-minutes of regulation. This set it up for two ten-minute overtime periods. Again, just like in regulation play, after both overtime periods, the game remained deadlocked at one goal apiece.
Penalty kicks was the next step in the process. Each team selected five players to attempt a kick and still Miller remained in the background supporting her team. To go with the trend of the rest of the game, both Stevens and Roosevelt made three of their five penalty kick attempts, meaning it would now go round by round to decide a winner. This was quite literally the only opportunity that Miller could have at entering the game, and Rough Riders head coach Cori Bonte looked Miller’s way to be her next kicker.
“When she asked me, I was like “you know, I can step up to the plate, do something for my team, and make an impact on this game.” When the girl before me missed it, I was like “oh my gosh, I could be the person who wins this,” so as I’m walking up all I’m thinking through my mind is calm down,” Miller explained. “The goal of PK’s is to be calm and not get in your head. So, I put the ball down, I took a deep breath, and knocked it in there. It went past the goal post, and I already knew it was in, and I turned around and sprinted to my team and I started crying my eyes out, because I was just so happy.”
Miller had done it. Not only had she been able to play in the championship match, but she kicked the winning goal for her team. For any athlete, this is a dream scenario.
“Being able to actually be in the game, and kicking that last goal, it was amazing to me. It definitely made an impact on my life, and I’ll never forget it,” exclaimed Miller.
Last year, Sioux Falls Roosevelt lost in the state championship match, but this year, they won it. This is the first sanctioned state girls’ soccer championship for the Rough Riders program, and while it’s a memory that so many will remember for years to come, for Miller, it’s one she’ll remember for a lifetime.