STANFORD, Calif. -- Stanford senior goalkeeper Emily Oliver, a 2011 All-America and College Cup Defensive MVP, has retired from soccer for medical reasons.
Oliver has had a series of concussions, including the latest against Portland on Aug. 31, which has forced her to step away from the game.
The Flossmoor, Ill., native completes her career with a school-record goals-against average of 0.36, breaking the Stanford standard of 0.45 held since 2004 by U.S. national team veteran Nicole Barnhart. The mark also places Oliver No. 3 on the all-time NCAA Division I list.
“I’ve had a lot of concussions,” Oliver said. “So my risk is very high now. Going through this process of deciding this direction, I can’t even put into words how helpful it has been to be with the team and all these girls that make it bearable.
“Honestly, it’s a tribute to them that they can help me through this. I can’t even put words to it. They’ve really held me up and kept me going.”
Among her accomplishments: Oliver never lost a regular-season match, earned 27 shutouts (No. 5 in school history), was a three-time all-conference selection, and a 2011 NSCAA third-team All-America. A human biology major focusing on human performance, Oliver carries a GPA of 3.46 and is a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award -- a national honor for those who excel in athletics and academics, are active in the community, and have shown great character.
“Emily’s personality encapsulates everything we do here at Stanford,” said goalkeepers coach Jay Cooney. “She’s competitive, she works hard, she never says die. She puts everything into everything that she does.
“To have her career cut short … it’s sad. It’s a sad moment for the whole program. But we’re really trying to celebrate what she did in the three-plus years she was able to play, and it’s been remarkable. She set the benchmark for everyone on her team and the players to follow.”
Oliver may be most remembered for her ability to raise her already-high level on the biggest stage – the NCAA College Cup. She was a three-time College Cup All-Tournament selection and simply was brilliant in leading Stanford to the 2011 title, and even in 1-0 losses in the 2010 final (to Notre Dame) and 2012 semifinals (to North Carolina).
In Stanford’s loss in the 2010 championship match, then-freshman Oliver introduced herself to the nation by making four spectacular saves in the second half. Afterward, Notre Dame All-America Melissa Henderson said: “She’s absolutely tremendous. She made so many great saves. I have so much respect for her and everything she did today.”
If there is one save that stood above the rest – a difficult choice to be sure – it came in the 2011 NCAA final against Duke. With Stanford straining to protect a 1-0 lead against a late, desperate Blue Devil surge, Oliver leaped backward and tipped a dipping 28-yard shot over the bar.
“That’s a save that we had been training for, pretty much every Tuesday for three months, in our gymnastics room here at Stanford,” Cooney said. “Over that period of time, she got better and better and better. I knew she would have to make that save eventually over the course of the season. I didn’t know it was going to be that important.”
A concussion suffered in the spring of 2012 caused Oliver to miss the first seven matches of the 2012 season. But she recovered to post a 0.54 GAA and earn her second consecutive All-Pac-12 first-team honor.
This season, Oliver started the first three matches and earned one shutout while posting a 0.70 GAA before a collision at the edge of the penalty area in the 51st minute of a 1-1 draw against Portland caused her to leave the field for the final time.
“I’m very sad that Emily is having to retire at a young age,” Stanford head coach Paul Ratcliffe said. “But she has accomplished so much at Stanford. She helped us win our national championship. She’s been a great leader for the program, and I think she’ll continue to be a great leader until she graduates.
“She’s an unbelievable competitor, has amazing character and has been the foundation for the program for the last four years. Emily will go down in the record books as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play at Stanford, and we have a tradition of having incredible goalkeepers.”
Now, her role is a mentor for a talented goalkeeping crew of freshman starter Jane Campbell, sophomore Sarah Cox, and fifth-year senior Aly Gleason.
“I still think I have a lot to give to the team,” Oliver said. “It’s just a different perspective from where I stood three weeks ago.”
Ratcliffe carries his own special memories of Oliver’s collegiate career.
“I’ll always remember what she’s done for the team in the biggest games,” he said. “Her performances in the College Cup were incredible. That will be her legacy.”