Nov. 18, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Keeping up with South Carolina junior midfielder Koty Millard on the soccer pitch isn’t easy. Whether he’s part of the offensive attack or hustling back on defense, Millard is often a blur that just keeps moving.
“I have to give a lot of credit to my parents,” Millard said. “My mom (Lisa) was a big runner, and my parents just instilled this work ethic in me. I always trained for endurance. So I like to challenge myself fitness-wise. It’s fun.”
At 5 feet 5 inches tall, he’s not the biggest guy on the field. He’s not the fastest either, but he’s fast enough and knows how to maximize his talents and has earned the respect of his peers after earning Second Team All-Conference USA honors this season.
“He’s got a great engine, and he’s got great heart,” South Carolina head coach Mark Berson said. “That’s all on top of being a great soccer player. He reads the game really well. He takes good angles when he’s closing down a player, and he takes good angles in the attack. He’s really intelligent the way he plays. When you add that great engine, determination, and heart, you have a guy who is just an invaluable player for us out there.”
“There are advantages to being big, but there are also disadvantages,” Millard said. “Usually the smaller guys are quicker side-to-side, and big guys can have trouble defending them. When big guys get close in, they can ‘body’ you off. So it just depends who really uses their skills the best to gain the advantage.”
Millard has also excelled in the classroom and has been named to the SEC and Conference USA Academic Honor Rolls each of his first two years at South Carolina. Before that, he starred at Cardinal Newman High School, a small private school in Columbia, and he had plenty of recruiters looking his way from an early age. Millard grew up as a Gamecock fan, and it was an easy choice for him to stay close to home.
He’s really intelligent the way he plays. When you add that great engine, determination, and heart, you have a guy who is just an invaluable player for us out there.
“I probably started getting recruited around eighth grade or freshman year in high school,” Millard said. “I grew up as a Gamecock fan. I never really pictured myself going anywhere else. I love my Gamecock family. Coming into my freshman year, I knew a bunch of guys on the team, and I figured I had already played with them before so we’d probably have good team chemistry. Another big reason is that I hate the cold, and South Carolina is the perfect temperature most of the time. The school itself was a big reason. It had the program I wanted to study, which is great because I’m an exercise science major.”
“We knew about Koty for a while,” Berson said. “We try to make sure that we look in South Carolina and make sure we find players in the state that we think fit the mold of a University of South Carolina soccer player. Koty was certainly that. He’s also a tremendous student. I think he’s been a supporter of the Gamecocks for a while, so that’s nice for him too.
“We want to make sure that if there is a student-athlete in our area who wants to come to South Carolina, and he’s a good player, that we make every effort to recruit him. We have a lot of South Carolina guys. We have four or five guys from the state in the lineup most nights, so hopefully that’s a trend that will continue.”
Millard has been a regular in the starting lineup since his freshman season in 2013. Among his favorite career highlights was scoring the golden goal to knock off rival Clemson in overtime in 2014. He also tallied the game-winner against Kentucky in the Conference USA Tournament that year. Of course his most recent thrill was realized this week as the No. 17 ranked Gamecocks prepare for the program’s 21st appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which begins Thursday at Stone Stadium where South Carolina has gone undefeated during the regular season in 2015.
“The fans are like a twelfth man for us,” Millard said. “They really help us get going sometimes. This is the season where I feel like we’ve put it all together. We’ve done alright during my past two seasons, but we’ve created the team that we want to be now. I think we’ve come a long way.”
In addition to the growth of the team, Berson has also been pleased with Millard’s desire to always improve his game.
“The biggest thing is his ability to play defensively as well as attacking-wise,” Berson. “He’s been able to play very well against some of the most talented forwards that we face on our schedule. So week in and week out, he and Ive (Burnett) have played really well for us defensively. A lot of times, kids coming out of high school don’t have to defend as much because they’re the go-to guy in the attack. He’s really improved in that area since he got here.”
“My decision-making has become better,” Millard said. “Our entire team has just worked on knowing what to do, and that’s helped us all become better players.”
His family lives on a horse farm just outside of Columbia, and when he’s not playing soccer, being anywhere outdoors is Millard’s ideal spot.
“I’m a country kid at heart,” Millard said. “I don’t sound like a country person though. I like to be in nature a lot. I used to ride a lot, but recently I got bucked off a horse over the summer and cut open my face a little bit. I haven’t really ridden since then.”
He won’t try to join the equestrian team any time soon, and Millard admits that Coach Berson would probably prefer that he stay off the horses for a while. At least until the national tournament is over.
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