As boys ran toward her with the ball, goalkeeper Olivia Mitrovich would dig in her cleats, bring her hands up and growl at them.
She was 3 years old at the time, and would often leave the boys in tears.
That ferocious attitude has helped Olivia continue her soccer career into high school despite a long history of bumps, bruises and injuries.
"I'm so tough, I can get through anything, even a few broken fingers," the 15-year-old said. "It just makes me stronger and makes for good stories."
Like a Freight Train
Her biggest injury—and arguably best story—occurred in August 2012. As usual, Olivia was aggressively guarding the goal near the end of her first practice with a new team.
"I went in for a slide tackle and a girl collided with me," she said. "I guess she couldn't stop herself and my defender fell into her."
One of her teammate's cleats struck Olivia in her left eye. Both of her parents were on the sideline watching the practice when the injury occurred.
"We saw it happening," Olivia's mother, Kristen, said. "It was like a freight train. We just couldn't stop it."
Olivia tried to tough it out and walk off the field. When she touched her eye and saw blood, she sat back down. Her father, Jim, helped her off the field. Both he and Kristen were anticipating another short night in the emergency room.
"I thought it was a cut on her eyebrow, nothing more than a laceration," Jim said. "From there, we took her straight to Children's. We made it in record time."
Olivia's parents brought her to the Emergency Department at Scottish Rite hospital, where her eye was stitched up. Before the family left, the emergency physicians wanted to do a precautionary computed tomography (CT) scan.
"We thought we were going to get our papers, sign everything and be ready to go," Jim said. "Then the doctor said we weren't going anywhere. They wanted to do surgery."
The CT scan showed that, when Olivia's eye was struck, it also fractured the bottom of her eye socket. If left untreated, the injury could result in severe eye damage and even loss of vision.
Olivia went into surgery the next morning with Fernando Burstein, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.P., Medical Director, The Center for Craniofacial Disorders.
"We had to put our faith in these guys, and they did a phenomenal job," Kristen said.
An Impatient Patient
After the successful surgery to fix her eye socket, Olivia had to stay in the hospital for another four days. She was ready to get back on the soccer field much sooner than that.
"She was actually arguing with the doctor sewing her eyelid back on that she was going back in two days because she had a tournament," Kristen said.
Even when she returned home, Olivia wasn't cleared to play. She had to stay off the field for another four weeks while her eye healed. Those four weeks were the worst part of the injury.
"I couldn't do anything," Olivia said. "I was basically laid up on the couch. I'm usually always moving around. I couldn't watch TV or text. I basically just slept."
When she returned to the field, she fell right back into her aggressive, growling demeanor on the field. Most recently, she landed a spot on the Northview High varsity soccer team as a freshman.
"I couldn't stop smiling," she said. "I was so happy."