NEWINGTON – Olivia Mullings, an All-State and All-New England selection after a monster season with the Newington girls soccer team, committed to the University of Hartford shortly before the end of her standout junior campaign. But in a way, Mullings has been a member of the Hawks since youth.
“I've been going to Hartford since I was little for camps and Women in Sports Day,” Mullings said. “I would be there all the time. It was a hot spot for me since I was a kid, so I always liked it.”
With the help of those soccer camps at Hartford and club coach Marc Bailey, Mullings turned into a star, earning all-conference honors during her freshman and sophomore seasons with the Indians, and when she looked to make a change in club teams, Newington head coach Adam Wilkinson put Mullings in touch with Todd Sadler, an assistant coach at Hartford and the coach of Oakwood Soccer Club. Sadler took on Mullings and after watching her play for his club team, thought she might be a benefit to the Hawks.
Sadler told Hartford head coach John Natale about Mullings, and after attending multiple ID clinics at the university during the summer following her sophomore season, Natale had seen all he needed to see.
“I was super scared but so excited because it was something new,” Mullings said of her college recruitment. “I didn't know anything about the college process, so having a coach come after you is a crazy thing. I never thought I would go D-I until I got the offer, so that was exciting.”
The excitement began for Mullings before the offer arrived. During a visit to the campus, Mullings met Kaila Lozada, a senior forward who was wrapping up her collegiate career after earning All-New England honors at Newington four years before, where Mullings watched Lozada play before donning the Indians colors herself.
“She didn't know, but I kind of idolized her,” Mullings said. “I got to meet her and that was really exciting.”
Mullings made her announcement during the 2019 season, when she led Newington in scoring and helped the Indians reach the second round of the Class LL state tournament after a dominant 14-2-0 regular season. For Mullings, such a dominant individual season helped enhance her sense of belonging in an elite group of high school athletes that are able to move on to play at the Division I level.
“I got even more excited after getting All-New England,” Mullings said. “I was getting more confident in myself. I shocked myself, honestly, but I put in the effort and the work and was able to come out strong this year. Hopefully I can come out even better next year too.”
Once her senior season is finished, Mullings will take the short trip to Hartford to continue what has already been a decorative soccer career. Her next step will be a big one in terms of competition, but small in proximity, which is just how Mullings prefers it to be.
“That was really important to me,” Mullings said. “I want my parents to see me play. They've been my biggest support system since I was like three years old, when all of this started. But it's an added bonus that I've been going to this school since I was little. I've been around it all the time. It's cool to finally commit to a school that I've known so well.”
Mullings isn’t officially a Hartford student-athlete yet, but her commitment is the completion of a journey she began before she or even Lozada began playing for Newington High School.
“I would go to Hartford games and be excited because they were so good,” Mullings said. “To have an offer come up, I was just so excited. I just want to work at it and be a better player so I can play up to that level. But it gave me so much confidence to be told that I can play at that level.”