Student Spotlight: Mackenzie Gress

April 18, 2019

By Somaia Hassan

For the month of April, the Lighthouse turns the spotlight over to student athlete Mackenzie Gress, who is a freshman. She first stepped onto the soccer field at the age of seven and has never left it since.

Gress, who is enrolled in two honors classes, is not just an overachiever in academics but in sports as well. She is a goalkeeper on the United States National Soccer Team and is also a part of the New York City Football Club.

“Pretty much everything I do [is for soccer]. Even when I’m in school, it’s all I’m thinking about,” Gress said. “A lot of times, I get home at like 10:30 at night, and I have to wake up early to do my homework.”

After school, Gress heads to soccer practice, which takes place in different locations. Twice a week, she travels around 100 miles to train with former U.S. soccer goalkeeper Jill Loyden at the Keeper Institute in Mantua Township.

Even though she is only a freshman, Gress has already been recruited by universities including Columbia, Florida State, Pennsylvania State, Tennessee and Yale. Gress said she is particularly excited that Penn State recruited her.

“I was like, ‘Wow, Penn State. It’s only the best college in the country for soccer,’ and they were showing interest in me,” Gress said.

After visiting Penn State three times, she was given an offer.

“They said, ‘How would you like to be a part of the Nittany Lion family?’ And they offered me a scholarship. Then, I verbally committed,” Gress said.

Even though she is already admitted to the university, Gress said she still needs to maintain good grades and a high GPA to get accepted into the kinesiology program where she would be studying the principles and mechanisms of movement.

“You have to be on top of your grades. That is something they expect, but you’re pretty much admitted into the school,” Gress said.

Gress said she loves playing soccer because she can sense her improvement every day. She also prides herself on maintaining a positive attitude.

“If you’re a bad teammate, always being negative and constantly yelling at people, no one is going to want to play with you,” Gress said.

Freshman Casey Cirne, who is good friends with Gress, described her as a driven and dedicated team player.

“Mackenzie is always extremely helpful to everyone around her. She is a great friend who is there for you whenever you need her,” Cirne said.

Having known Gress for almost eight years, Cirne said she believes Gress has what it takes to compete professionally.

“She will become even more focused and motivated to be mentally and physically prepared to take on the challenge of competing at one of the top Division I schools in the country,” Cirne said.

She said all of Gress’ friends were happy to hear she committed to Penn State.

“When Mackenzie told everyone the news, everyone was excited and couldn’t be more proud of her. We can’t wait to watch her play against the nation’s top teams,” Cirne said.

Senior Isabella Castagnetti, who committed to the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts during her sophomore year, said committing to college as an underclassman in high school is a great accomplishment.

“Unlike other players on the soccer field, colleges are typically looking for one goalkeeper in each recruiting class, diminishing the opportunities for goalies to get recruited by such competitive and prestigious schools,” Castagnetti said.

Castagnetti said even though she has never played soccer with Gress, she is proud of her success, particularly because she has a firsthand understanding of the recruiting process.

“I know she will excel at Penn State both athletically and academically, and I wish nothing but the best for her,” said Castagnetti.

Photos from Mackenzie Gress

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