NEWINGTON - Inside the gymnasium at Newington High School, the three exposed walls are each covered with remnants of athletic history. Up behind the far basketball hoop sits the school’s state championship banners, while the other two list in gold lettering the student-athletes that have been named All-State, All-New England and All-American during their memorable high school careers.
Girls soccer star Olivia Mullings can see her name on that wall already, as the senior had already received All-State and All-New England honors during a historic junior season in 2019, but glancing up at the list of All-Americans in Newington history fueled a desire for Mullings to find her name in gold lettering under one more illustrious column.
“In the gym, the names are all up, and I remember looking up at them and seeing that there were only a couple in the All-American slot,” Mullings said. “I always told myself I wanted to do it.”
But as Mullings’ senior season came to an end, her hopes for accomplishing that goal had begun to fade. She battled a knee injury that prevented her from feeling 100 percent for the entirety of the shortened season, and felt that she had performed well below her junior campaign when she poured in 22 goals and 11 assists.
The United Soccer Coaches Association believed otherwise, and Mullings is officially an All-American, being named to the team last week.
“I definitely did not expect it at all,” Mullings said. “Especially because I didn't feel like I performed to the best of my abilities this year, with the setbacks and everything. It was really a surprise.”
Periodic trips to the bench to rest her knee didn’t hold Mullings back from showing enough on the pitch to earn a spot among the best players in the nation, with 57 girls being selected to the team. Mullings, just one of six girls from Connecticut to be named, overcame nagging pain and physical therapy visits to become the first player in program history to become an All-American.
“Overall, I really didn't think I was going to get it,” Mullings said. “Last year I had a really good season, and this year I didn't match up to that. It was really surprising.”
The personal stats may not have been what they were during her junior campaign, but Mullings still helped lead Newington to a championship victory in the CCC’s Region D tournament, taking down Wethersfield in a dramatic final that was decided by penalty kicks, and was still one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the state. She may not have felt like national recognition was in her future, but once she found out she had accomplished her goal, it only added to her sense of pleasant surprise.
“I was really happy about it,” Mullings said. “It was something I've wanted really badly, and I was kind of disappointed in myself because I didn't think that I was going to be able to get it this year. I was very happy.”
Given the historic nature of the award and the previous doubt about ever being able to do it, Mullings doesn’t have to think much about where this award ranks in her already illustrious soccer career.
“As of right now, it's at the top,” Mullings said. “But we'll see how college goes.”
That collegiate chapter will begin next year at the University of Hartford, where more accolades can be added to her already lengthy list. But right now, Mullings will try to take in the revelation that her name has been added to a short list at Newington High School, one which she always hoped her name would be displayed someday.
“Now my name will be there forever,” Mullings said. “Which is insane.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com