Dynamic midfielder Connor MacMillan delights in cutting through opponents and spearheading the UFV attack.

UFV’s MacMillan small in stature but giant for Cascades

Just like the successful but underrated UFV soccer program, the fifth year senior has fought tooth and nail to earn respect.

Connor MacMillan has spent his entire soccer life playing with a chip on his shoulder and his emotions on his sleeve.You can see it in his eyes every time he steps on the pitch.  MacMillan plays every minute like he’s got something to prove, because usually he does. The Chilliwackian has been dealing with doubters as long as he can remember, and he’s silenced them all.He rapidly rose through the youth soccer ranks, bypassing  bigger kids on the way, but even then people thought he lacked the size and skill to succeed at the next level.He made the University of the Fraser Valley men’s team as a walk-on, and even then people thought he’d be no more than a bench piece.“I came to an open tryout and I remember (UFV coaches) Alan Errington and Colin Miller telling me I had two weeks to show what I could do, and if I didn’t do it I’d be cut,” MacMillan recalled. The more playing time they gave him the more they couldn’t pry MacMillan out of the lineup.  He got better, every practice and every game, fueled by a competitive fire few men possess.“I know there’s a lot of really competitive guys on our team, but I really, really don’t like losing,” he said. MacMillan cemented his status as a starter, then took his game to a new level in last year’s Canada West playoffs. The 23 year old matched his regular season output (three goals, one assist) in just three postseason games. As he started training for the 2016 season, his fifth and final year of university eligibility, MacMillan prepared to build off that.“I honestly love being on the ball as much as possible and I really don’t care if I’m the one scoring goals or getting assists,” he said. “If I create a turnover that leads to a goal, I think that’s just as important.”“If you just play well, your coaches and teammates will notice that. So instead of worrying about goals and assists, I make the pass if it’s there and take the shot if it’s there.” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes draws a parallel between MacMillan’s rise and that of the Cascades. UFV has won Canada West bronze in two of the last three seasons. And yet, like his star midfielder, the program has fought tooth and nail to earn respect.“C-Mac’s always had to fight, always been up against it, always been the smallest player who got looked over and it’s built him into the person and player he is,” Lowndes said. “Our program has also had that where we’ve had to prove people wrong.”“He embodies our fighting spirit.”MacMillan agreed.“It definitely gives you that underdog feeling, which is a good push,” he said. “I love looking back to where I was when I started with this program and where I am now, and where the program was then and where it is now.”“It’s a good feeling.”The MacMillan that leads the Cascades now is a mature and confident version.He still has that boulder on his shoulder.He still plays angry, and once upon a time he would have used that in a negative way, jawing at the ref or an opponent and taking himself out of the game.Now, it’s like tossing a log on a roaring fire that he’s (usually) in full control of. “When I channel angry and motivated feelings  in the right way, I can get into a zone,” he explained. “And that makes me the best player I can be.”“I feel it coming, and I still let it get to me, but now I use it in a different way.”“Adrenaline and anger gives me energy.”MacMillan and company (4-5-1 and fourth in the Pacific division) face Trinity Western in a huge home-and-home this weekend.UFV defeated the Spartans in the Canada West bronze medal game last season, making this a grudge match.See ufvcascades.ca for game times and venues.

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