Olivia Mackethan has competed with and against some of the premier youth soccer talent that the United States has to offer thanks to the Olympic Development Program. After playing four years of ODP, Mackethan has a new challenge on her radar; Division I college soccer.
On Sept. 14, Mackethan verbally committed to attend Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ and to be a member of it’s women’s soccer team. The Peacocks’ women’s soccer program is relatively young, dating back to 1992. The team is led by second-year Head Coach Julia Bazi and competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Despite the fact that she will be acclimating to everything that college has to offer -- as well as the speed of the game -- Mackethan hopes to be a contributor for the Peacocks in the fall of 2022.
“When I visited the campus, that kind of put me over the edge,” Mackethan said. “I really like the area. I’ve lived in the suburbs, rural areas so I want to get out and be in the city. Once I had talked to the coaches -- the coaching staff is amazing, they’re so nice and I know that they’re so knowledgeable and are going to turn around the program. Then I talked to some players and they all had nothing but good things to say. The prospect of getting to play my freshman year Is also really exciting to me.”
She added that she hopes to get the starting nod for a few games or “just get as many minutes as I possibly can.”
Simon Robinson, the ODP Head Goalkeeper Coach, has known Olivia for “six or seven years.” In fact, he knew her before she played ODP because she attended his “Between the Posts” goalkeeper academy. He recounted this early relationship with Mackethan fondly.
“I used to tease her because she used to wear Sports Specs and when she would set to face a shot, it looked like she was doing origami,” Robinson said. “Her hands were all over the place. I used to call her Origami Hands, but she’s improved a lot over that time.”
Mackethan has improved so much that Robinson believes she could be a mainstay for the Peacocks for years to come. He said that one of the primary reasons is because of Mackethan’s personality.
“If she was a little more quiet and withdrawn she could still help the program,” Robinson said. “But the type of person she is -- being outgoing and being able to bring people together and be a bit of a goofball -- I think she can absolutely go in as a freshman and then be that person who graduates years later and the school misses her. She’s absolutely got the potential to be a big part of a rebuilding process at the school.”
Originally an outside back, Mackethan started playing rec soccer when she was six for Boyertown Soccer Club and continued doing so until she was 10 years old. It was not until she was 11 or 12 years old and was a member of the Boyertown travel team that Mackethan got thrown into the fire and appeared between the pipes.
She said that the starting goalkeeper got hurt during a game and that the player who served as the backup wasn’t there. As Mackethan put it, she was “the random third string as a kid.” However, despite her nerves that day, she felt natural in the position.
After playing for Boyertown for a number of years, Makethan was again ready for the next step. She started playing ODP in 2018 and continued until this past year. With a little help from Robinson, she also moved sides to Penn Fusion.
“It was at an ODP practice that I was talking to the Penn Fusion keeper coach at the time about their need for a keeper,” Robinson said. “Immediately I thought of Olivia. Because of that conversation, it allowed her to play for a club like Penn Fusion, which in turn helped her get recruited and commit to play DI soccer.”
Now years removed from her first exposure to being a goalkeeper, Mackethan is fully invested.
“First of all I love goalkeeper training, honestly,” Mackethan said. “I think field player training is fun, but getting to catch balls and dive and all that, I just think is super fun. Honestly I just like making big saves. I think making a big save in a huge game is honestly more rewarding than scoring the winning goal.”
Mackethan has said that she feels a sense of relief since making her verbal commitment. She admitted that it was “kind of nerve wracking thinking of things you have to do to impress coaches.” However, she can now focus on playing, being a good teammate and enjoying her final year before college soccer.
And although it is still years away, Robinson has an idea of what she can do when she’s finished school.
“I’m already talking to her about when she graduates, coming back to the area and being a goalkeeper coach for ODP,” Robinson said. “I’m so proud of Olivia, I think she’s going to be great. I’ve been proud enough to be part of the process and be a role model for her in her growth. I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon.”