By Joseph Garcia
The competitiveness gene runs high in the Miller family.
Sawyer, Bo and Lucy Miller have all played tennis for Liberty Hill High School over the last few seasons.
When the Miller family, headed by Kent and Nyla, moved from Norman, Okla., nearly three years ago, they quickly realized that Liberty Hill is a football town first and did not field a school soccer team – which the Miller children played in their home state.
“We looked for sports for our children to play,” Mrs. Miller said. “(Sawyer) started playing tennis as he wasn’t very big on group sports. He started playing tennis in Norman, Bo was a baseball player and Lucy played soccer. My husband got a job down here and we moved down here and they didn’t have soccer or baseball at the junior high level for my younger two. (Bo and Lucy) figured, ‘oh well Sawyer plays tennis, we’ll take up tennis, too.’ They were like fish to water – they loved it.”
Sawyer, 18, is a senior and will be graduating this year. He played tennis this past fall, but elected to sit out the spring season to concentrate on academics and college admissions.
The Millers moved to Liberty Hill the summer before Sawyer’s sophomore year and he played that entire year as well as his whole junior year.
Bo, 15, is a sophomore and made the varsity tennis team as a freshman. Lucy, 15, is a freshman right now and is one of the top players on the JV team.
“I started playing tennis to play against friends and (Bo) took to it a little more than I did, just because that’s what he does, and (Lucy followed),” Sawyer explained. “I played in the fall season, but then I realized that I’d rather be home spending time with everybody and making sure I graduate instead of playing spring tennis just for the fun of it.”
The eldest Miller sibling is looking forward to graduating and elevating his academics to the university level.
“I want to go to UNT (University of North Texas) and go into psychology or English, one of those two. I’m ready to be done with high school. I’ve had senioritis since sixth grade,” Sawyer said jokingly.
The Millers will tell you that Bo, who is considered one of the top two players on the boys’ team, has always been the more athletic of the siblings. But he doesn’t just excel at athletics. He is on the student council and is on the Liberty Hill computer science team, which competes at UIL contests.
Oh, yes. Bo knows tennis.
“I didn’t take it too seriously until I moved down here and I just fell in love with (tennis) because of the strategy and how much skill it takes to play the game,” Bo said. “It’s fun and as far as I can tell there are more people (in Texas) that play tennis. It is much more competitive than in Oklahoma.”
The tennis program at Liberty Hill is so competitive that players play in ladder matches against each other to move up spots.
According to Lucy, there are so many girls right now who are really good.
“Coach (Anthony) Escobar can only keep eight players on varsity, but there are probably 11 who should be playing (at that level),” she said.
Lucy, the youngest of the Millers, began playing tennis when she was in seventh grade. She too is on the student council, competes in One Act Play in UIL competitions for Liberty Hill, shot game footage for Coach Matt Kirschner’s Lady Panther basketball team and also performed trainer duties.
She loves the small town feel of Liberty Hill and says the people are really nice. She is also an up-and-coming tennis player on the girls’ team.
“I like playing outdoors and I like the fact that (tennis) is an individual sport,” Lucy explained. “I used to play soccer and when we moved down here it wasn’t as big. So I needed another sport to play and I started taking tennis lessons and I fell in love with it.”
In Norman, the Millers were used to driving themselves to tennis tournaments, parents would take turns making sandwiches and uniform costs came out of pocket. Here in Liberty Hill, things are quite different and the family appreciates the change.
“The Liberty Hill Booster Club has been great,” Mrs. Miller explained. “When we got here (we found out) the booster club pays for buses, tournament fees, the uniforms and provided water and lunches for the kids. I was really in shock by the booster club and the support the (tennis teams) have.”
At the LHISD School Board meeting March 18, Mrs. Miller asked the Board to add an athletic period for tennis next school year when they are in the new high school.
“I went to the school board and asked ‘please can we have an athletic period for tennis players’,” she said. “The other tennis parents asked me to go forward since I have three kids involved with the tennis program. We are hoping next year that there will be a tennis athletic period so these kids can get some endurance training and build up muscles. That would just take the program to a whole new level.”
The Millers are looking forward to playing on the brand new tennis courts by the new high school next school year. There will be eight courts for players to practice and compete. But currently Bo and Lucy are preparing for the District 8-3A Tennis Tournament, held in Llano April 8-9.
As they have done all season, in addition to practicing at school, Bo and Lucy take tennis lessons from Marcie Goza, mother of reigning district champ Chesney Goza.
Most of the Liberty Hill tennis players take private lessons like Bo and Lucy. But perhaps the trait that separates some other players from the Miller children is their competitiveness, which can only be good for the Liberty Hill tennis program.
Bo and Lucy plan to continue to play tennis throughout high school. Bo has two more full seasons left, while Lucy has three more ahead of her. And although he is not playing this spring, the Miller competitive spirit never dies within Sawyer as is the case with his siblings.
“We are constantly competing,” Sawyer joked. “We’ll compete just carrying groceries in the house.”