Imagine this: it’s your senior season. You’re a few goals shy of becoming top five in program history in goals scored and your team has already been crowned your conference’s regular season champion. It’s almost too good to be true.
Unless you’re Niki Miles.
The California native is in the midst of a historic season. On an individual level, Miles is having the definition of a breakout year. As of publication, she has notched 46 goals in her senior campaign — tripling the 15 that she had last year. Those 46 have her climbing the ranks in the single-season scoring record for Penn. Only three Quakers have notched 50 goals in one season — and with one regular-season game left, Miles could become the fourth in a storybook season for the senior. If she gets 13 more, she will become the all-time single-season scorer for Penn.
Miles also was on the cusp of history very recently. In Penn’s game against Brown, she totaled seven goals — including three in the third quarter. She was one goal shy of etching herself into history books. An eighth goal would have her tied for second place for most individual goals in a game — last done by Alex Condon in 2017.
Scoring is in her blood.
Miles is the daughter of lacrosse royalty. Her father Glen Miles is one of the most decorated lacrosse players in collegiate history. Glen played for Navy, where he was named a three-time All-American midfielder and the National Midfielder of the Year in 1986. Having her father be such a prestigious lacrosse player heavily influenced her career growing up and provided her with indispensable knowledge.
Niki was “always learning from him, getting coached from the sidelines and being able to really connect through the sport,” she said. “He’s always been somebody I always looked up to and admired as an athlete and a leader ... So I’ve tried to carry that with me and it’s a big part of how I play today.”
In addition, the younger Miles gained a lot of knowledge and experience from playing with her two sisters, playing in backyard games, and training in the summer that fostered her competitiveness. Competitiveness is a huge part of what makes Miles her— her competitive nature gives her the desire to play better and do better every game. It has been paying off this season, and she has the stats to back it up.
But despite it all, Miles has made this season not about her, but rather her teammates and coaches.
“I’m not putting any pressure on myself per se, but sticking to the game plan and what we work on in practice and ultimately trying to get the W,” Miles said.
Even in that electric Brown game, where she had a performance many people could only dream of, she was more happy about what the results meant for the team as a whole. Miles was proud of how the team won the Ivy League title outright and how they got head coach Karin Corbett’s 250th career win at Penn. With a team-oriented mindset, it is no wonder she earned the honor of team captain as a junior in 2022.
Furthermore, as a senior who lost two seasons to COVID-19, she has dwelled less on the time that she lost as an individual player but reflected more about how it has made her and her teammates stronger together.
“We’ve really leaned on each other and it’s made us stronger and more competitive. It means more to us because of everything we’ve gone through,” Miles said.
It’s not just the senior class that feels so close but rather, the whole team. Miles said this season, the team has been bonded together in their quest to come back from last season, where they missed out on the postseason tournament. Miles said they are a genuinely close group of friends. She said that she’ll always remember the little moments they shared as a team, from the dance parties to just learning more about everyone.
As a team, they are back with a vengeance, and Miles credits that to their sense of community as a team and a drive to win. That drive to win was fostered by the idea of Penn Pride. Over the summer, Corbett brought in several alumni to speak about what it means to wear the Red and Blue for the lacrosse team. They gave an acronym for Penn Pride, with Pride standing for passion, resilience, initiative, discipline, and energy.
“Penn Pride to me means just having passion in every single thing you do and know[ing] that you’re representing not just yourselves but your school and your teammates and the people that came before you,” Miles said. “It’s something people show every day and we try to show it in our culture.”
And Miles — a player that seldom ever leaves the field during the games and does everything from draw controls to scoring — takes that meaning of Penn Pride to heart with every single game.
As a senior, she is especially taking that to heart as she understands that her remaining time at Penn grows smaller with each and every day. Miles cherishes all that Penn has to offer, especially the Penn athletics family. She states that some of her favorite moments throughout her time at Penn have been receiving support from players of other teams like football and women’s soccer and being able to return that same support by showing up at theirs. To her, it makes a big school seem smaller and more personable.
She especially cherishes her experience as a lacrosse player. To her, lacrosse has it all.
“It’s a sport that has a lot of strategy, finesse, as well as lets you showcase athleticism on various levels whether that be speed, strength, or mental quickness. The fastest sport on two feet,” Miles said.
It was an easy sport to fall in love with for Miles. And with her stellar season still going, she just gets more and more reasons to keep loving it.