By Jesus Salazar
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
After 97 minutes of play on a recent Friday night at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, the stage was set for heroics.
Texas Soccer was locked in an overtime battle against in-state rival and sixth-ranked Texas Tech. The atmosphere was charged and both teams were desperately searching for a spark, someone to make a big play to nab a Big 12 Conference victory.
When the spark finally came, it likely didn’t surprise loyal followers of Texas Soccer that it came from freshman forward Olivia Brook.
After receiving a beautiful feed from teammate Jasmine Hart, Brook calmly played the ball to her left side and unleashed a left-footed shot from outside the box on the right wing. The perfectly-placed drive left TTU’s keeper with no chance at a save, nestling into the top left corner of the twine to complete the upset and set off Burnt Orange jubilation.
In witnessing the moment in person or on the Longhorn Network broadcast, many devoted UT soccer fans likely had the same thought run through their minds: “it had to be her.”
The fact is, the 19-year-old forward is getting UT fans used to seeing these types of performances. The game-winning goal marked Brook’s team-leading sixth tally of the season and kept her ranked among the top-five overall scoring leaders in the Big 12 Conference.
That talent didn’t just appear overnight. It took years of preparation and commitment, hard work and resiliency. Those are qualities that Brook likely learned from example, growing up with a father who played college football and a mother who spent time as a professional dancer. Her parents were a major factor in helping forge the character that drives her every day both on the soccer field and in the classroom, where she is studying advertising.
“They always had a strong drive in everything they did, and I guess that rubbed off on me,” Brook said. “They were such hard workers, so into sports and athletics and so focused on achieving their goals.”
That influence helped forge quite an athletic resume, as Brook tried almost every sport available to her before committing her standout efforts to soccer and track and field. She excelled in both disciplines, eventually winning numerous awards and accolades for Memorial High School in her hometown of Houston, Texas.
Brook soon came to a crossroads, however, and felt forced to make a choice between putting her focus into one sport over another. According to her, the choice was an easy one.
“I’ve always loved soccer,” Brook said. “I’ve always played soccer. I started running track to get better at soccer, to get faster. I did long jump, high jump and triple jump. Those helped me with coordination and speed. I enjoyed it too, but it was always soccer for me.”
For Brook, being a part of the Longhorn program and wearing the Burnt Orange are privileges she plans to take full advantage of over her four years. When the time came to make a decision on where to play collegiately, the Texas coaching staff, led by head coach Angela Kelly, made quite an impression and played a huge role in her decision to come to the Forty Acres.
“When I came and took my first unofficial visit, the coaching staff was awesome,” Brook said. “You can’t pass on an opportunity to work with people with such experience that can help you so much. Texas gives you all the tools. It has the facilities and everything that can help me be the best player that I can be. It was just right for me.”
It also doesn’t hurt that she now has the opportunity to be mentored by one of her lifelong soccer heroes, lauded United States Women’s National Team star and new Texas volunteer coach Kristine Lilly. The situation has truly evolved into a perfect fit.
“Olivia is the type of individual that embraces competition and shies away from no one,” Texas head coach Angela Kelly said. “She has been gifted with athleticism and is a natural goal-scorer. Her instincts around the goal are incredible and cannot be taught. In order to have success over a long period of time you must be humble, you must be coachable and you must be willing to put your neck on the line. Olivia will continue to find success in our culture because she embodies this mentality.”
Off the field, being a Texas athlete carries a special weight, a unique responsibility of turning into an agent of change for society and to hold utmost respect for the University’s values. In other words, an athlete is expected to give back to the community.
For Brook, playing for Texas and starting her career so well has put her in an unusual position, one that she’s still getting used to: being a role model for kids aspiring to be just like her.
“I haven’t really thought about me being a role model for the other kids,” Brook said. “I’m young so I guess I don’t really see myself as being viewed that way, but it’s a great thing. I think it’s really cool seeing all the little girls out there that could possibly come play here. I hope they do, and I’ll always encourage them to do their best.”
If you ask the scoring leader of any soccer team what their best all-time memory on the field is, one might expect an answer along the lines of a championship-winning goal or a match where she may have broken a personal scoring record. For Brook, the answer was a little different and came with a huge smile in tow: an assist.
“When I was in high school, we made it to the third round of playoffs every year,” Brook said. “We had one game that we had to win to move on to the next stage, I think I assisted the goal. I love scoring, but it was just the feeling of my helping to make that happen for someone else. That was awesome, we moved on and we had an incredible season.”
Selflessness at its best. That kind of attitude is exactly why her coaches and teammates have embraced her so easily, wanting to help her any way possible in becoming not only a better player, but an even better person.
“Olivia has been a great addition to our team,” Texas senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle said. “She’s a super-sweet person who’s respectful of everyone and loves soaking up knowledge from the upperclassmen, not just on but off the field as well. She’s the player who’s going to work tremendously hard for the team in everything she does. We know that she’s going to come into a match and provide a spark of energy, and that’s great for us.”
This rising soccer star, in the end, is just a young woman trying to succeed at The University of Texas. Someone that loves to draw and create artwork. Someone that loves Texas barbeque and all the types of food that Austin has to offer. Someone with a sense of humor that sometimes includes jumping around and singing for no reason, spreading joy to whoever she’s with in a given moment.
That’s Olivia Brook, the epitome of a Longhorn athlete, and Texas is glad she is here to stay.