By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
For any athlete that has suffered a serious injury, it is always the mental recovery that can take longer than the physical recovery.
Finding the ability to freely trust your body again can be a scary part of the process.
Which is why Waterloo girls soccer head coach Bill Jackson remembers a preseason play, involving Olivia Boyle, so vividly.
Boyle was playing in her first game since being cleared for action, following her surgery to repair a torn ACL in her right knee she suffered at the end of the 2022 season.
One run proved to Jackson that she was truly back.
“Seeing Olivia make that first run and her speed and toughness was inspiring,” Jackson said. “I know the pain she went through and how hard she worked to come back and play to help her team. She has the heart of a champion.”
And the numbers of a champion, too.
This season, the senior standout has scored 27 goals and has also passed off five assists, lifting her career totals to 52 goals and 20 assists.
Prior to this season, Boyle had already established herself as a scoring threat playing alongside Kaira English, but once a knee injury sidelined English for the entire 2023 season, Boyle instantly increased her scoring output.
Just a couple weeks into the season, Boyle had already registered a pair of hat tricks in Vikings wins.
Boyle plays all three front positions in the Vikings’ attack.
Her only change this season, from previous years, is that she is featured a little more frequently in central areas of the field in English’s absence.
“Olivia has been a vital part of our attack since I became coach,” said Jackson, who is in his second year with the team. “She has stepped up this season. Having the focus of the other team’s attention, it has forced Olivia to improve on runs and creative ways to find space.”
Her numbers, along with Waterloo’s 9-5-1 overall record (7-3-1 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference), prove that Boyle has been successful in answering those challenges.
Boyle’s speed has always been an integral part of her game and according to Jackson, despite her knee injury, she worked hard to return to the field even faster than before.
It has allowed Boyle to play from the wings and use the width of the field to her advantage, but has also transitioned to become a very dangerous attacker from the center of the field.
“Her crossing ability and strong shot are essential to be productive in the attacking third,” Jackson said. “She is a game-changer with her quick and powerful shot.”
Jackson first began coaching Boyle at the club level five years ago, and he has watched her mature as a player and leader.
“Her game has evolved quickly, and her desire to learn has enabled her to be a great attacker,” he said. “Watching her mature as a leader has also been impressive. She is also a selfless individual who always credits her teammates for the success the team has or even her own individual success.”
Before Jackson took over the Vikings’ girls soccer program, Boyle consistently played center back, but was quickly identified as a player that could aid in the team’s offensive attack and the positive results have followed.
Exactly what you would expect from the type of positive role model and leader that Boyle has become for the Vikings.