By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
From birth, Olivia Belack has followed her big brother, Jimmy.
First they crawled. Then they walked. Then they played soccer.
Soccer has always been the favorite pastime for the siblings, both members of their respective Penn State Behrend soccer team.
“It’s pretty much always been soccer for us. We both felt a knack for it,” says Jimmy, a senior defender and an accounting and finance major at the college.
The Pittsburgh natives’ commitment to the sport has paid off. It led Jimmy to Penn State Behrend where he has started all four seasons for the Lions, been a member of two AMCC Championship teams and is the team’s all-time assists leader (28).
The best could be yet to come.
On Wednesday, Nov. 5, the Lions begin their pursuit of a third AMCC title in four years when they play Mount Aloysius in the AMCC Tournament semifinals. For Jimmy, a two-time All-AMCC selection who leads the team with 44 points, it’s an opportunity to end his collegiate career on a high note.
“It feels really nice to know that I have made an impact,” he says. “It would be pretty special to be able to win another title this year.”
Olivia is hot on her brother’s heels. A midfielder and first-year finance major, she leads the women’s team in points with 34.
On Saturday, Nov. 1, when the Lions defeated La Roche 4-1 in the first round of the AMCC Tournament, Olivia scored the first goal to give the Lions a lead they never relinquished. The Lions will continue their postseason march Wednesday, Nov. 5, when they face Franciscan in the AMCC Tournament semifinals.
Her success mirrors Jimmy’s early experience with the Lions. As a freshman in 2011, he scored the game-winning goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jimmy’s athletic achievements piqued Olivia’s interest in Behrend when she began researching colleges.
“He never pushed me toward Behrend, but he always supported me,” she says. “I knew I’d like it here.”
An added benefit for the two close-knit siblings is that the men’s and women’s teams travel to matches together, giving them an opportunity to watch and cheer one another on at games.
It has also led to a friendly rivalry between the two.
“If I have a goal or two, (parents of soccer players) will then joke, ‘Jimmy has to score three now,’” Olivia says.
“My teammates will also look at me and say, ‘You can’t let her top you,’” Jimmy adds.
This very scenario played itself out on Sept. 27. Olivia recorded the first multi-goal game of her career as she scored twice to lead the Lions to a 2-1 win over Penn State Altoona. Later that day, Jimmy matched her performance in the men’s 5-0 win over Penn State Altoona.
The two say attending Penn State Behrend together was a great decision. It’s made it easier for their parents, Jeffrey and Kelly, to visit and attend games. And Jimmy played a big part in helping his sister get acclimated to her classes, coursework and the entire college experience.
“If I ever need anything, I just call him,” Olivia says. “Having Jimmy here definitely helped me, especially during the first few weeks.”
Olivia also now has the perfect example to follow as she gets set for three more seasons of collegiate soccer.
“It would be nice to be as successful as he was,” she says.
If her first season offers any indication, she likely will be, which comes as no surprise as she’s always followed in his footsteps.