Lauren Milliet wasted no time making an early impression for Colorado and the United States.
Milliet, a 2015 graduate of Durango High School, scored the only goal for the United States, represented by Colorado College, in the opening game of Pool D play at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.
Milliet’s 34th minute goal gave the Americans a 1-0 win against South Africa at Honam University Football Field.
“My goal was probably the most emotional and exciting moment of my life,” Milliet said in a text message to The Durango Herald. “I actually started crying when all my teammates hugged me.”
Milliet, daughter of Charlie and Janis Milliet, was dangerous all game, leading the team with four shots, all of which were on goal.
The goal came after Milliet dribbled the ball up the left side of the field and into the box. Left of goal, she crossed a pass to teammate Kaeli Vandesluis, who quickly gathered the ball and passed back to the center of the box, where Milliet cut through the defense and connected with her right foot to put the ball past South Africa goalkeeper Nkosingiphile Eslinah Zungu.
Milliet’s parents, grandmother Carol, also of Durango, and her aunt Jane Hamm all were in attendance for the goal. Lauren’s soccer-playing sisters, Brooke of Fort Lewis College and soon-to-be Durango High School senior Katie, also were there to cheer for their sister.
After fighting traffic from Seoul to Gwangju, the family walked into the stadium seconds before the goal.
“We literally walked into the venue, made it to our seats, and she scored 10 seconds later,” Charlie Milliet said. “Because of the timing, it was damned near surreal. It was thrilling ...
“We had a bit of an extended celebration as we realized the context of the score. We are really thankful that we made it to see her first international goal. Good stuff.”
Durango woke to the news of its star’s performance with excitement and pride.
“It was awesome, and I’m so happy for her because she has put in so much work since she was 9 years old to have this level of success,” said Milliet’s former coach at Durango High School Dalon Parker. “So early in her young college career, it is fitting for her to get that goal because of how hard she has worked and how talented she is.”
U.S. goalkeeper Rowan Frederiksen kept a clean sheet with three saves.
“We battled and kept our composure through a game where we didn’t have our best stuff,” Colorado College head coach Geoff Bennett said in a news release. “South Africa was difficult to play against, but I thought our players did a fantastic job getting our first three points in international competition.”
Milliet signed with Colorado College in the spring and was selected for the World University Games roster after going through trials with the Tigers in March.
Colorado College, based in Colorado Springs, could select players who are current or recent graduates born between 1990 and 1997. Athletes also had to be U.S. citizens.
The Tigers were chosen to represent Team USA by the United States International University Sports Federation. They are the first full collegiate women’s soccer team to represent the United States in this event, held every two years.
After earning the start, scoring and playing the entire match, Milliet exceeded her own expectations going into competition.
“It’s such an unbelievable experience to score for my country and get my first international goal,” she said. “I’m so honored and proud to have scored and honored to help my team get one step closer to a gold medal.”
Few associated with Durango High School or the Durango Youth Soccer Association were surprised to see Milliet, one of the youngest players on the roster, not only start but score.
“We knew from Day 1 that she had the ability to do what she’s doing right now,” Parker said. “She hasn’t even peaked, and she’s going to be even better three years from right now.
“It’s definitely fun for our program having an alumni having this much success. What she has done will continue to open doors for other young DYSA and DHS players.”
Milliet and the Tigers will face France (0-1) on July 4 at Mokpo International Stadium. France lost 2-0 to Canada in its opening game.