by Tom Pedulla –
Zoe Maxwell serves as a prime example of the profound impact sports can have on the development of a girl or boy.
She described herself as shy and a bit unsure in her early years before her father, Max, encouraged her to play soccer when she was five years old. She did not care for the sport at first, but she stayed with it.
“I think that’s how I gained some confidence and made new friends,” she said. “Soccer definitely changed my life. Not to sound cheesy, but it did.”
The 5-6, 123-pound Maxwell is going on to Brown after enjoying unprecedented success at Irvington. She closed her career with 116 goals — more than any girl or boy in school history — with 40 assists.
Her four-year varsity career culminated in All-State accolades to go with Section 1 Class B Player of the Year honors. She gained All-League distinction every season and was All-Section three times while excelling in the classroom as a National Honor Society and high honor roll student.
Maxwell gained the attention of college recruiters as a freshman and eventually narrowed her choices to Brown, Georgetown, Princeton and Boston University. She said her visit to Brown, located in Providence, Rhode Island, was decisive.
“The coaching staff and players really drew me in,” she said, “because they were all very welcoming and they want what’s best for you.”
She may be interested in a career in public health and found Brown’s open curriculum appealing. “It makes you choose more your direction,” she said, “and I really like that.”
Brown Coach Kia McNeill welcomed Maxwell to a strong team that competed for the Ivy League title last year until a 1-0 loss at Yale in its season finale.
“Zoe will see time in the midfield or up top. She’s extremely gifted with the ball at her feet and makes difficult plays look effortless,” McNeill said. “She has the skill set and pace to take players on, but also has the vision, awareness and technique to set up others to score. Her work ethic is second to none, and she has a deep desire to succeed which fits well with our team mentality.”
Maxwell has been preparing for Brown throughout the summer with conditioning drills and weightlifting. She is getting acclimated to the college level by competing with the New York Surf.
McNeill puts all of her players through a conditioning test the day after they arrive on campus. That is not likely to pose a problem for Maxwell, who won sectional track and field titles indoors at 300 meters and 55 meters and outdoors at 400 meters. She captured the triple jump in the winter and spring.
Pat DiBenedetto, Irvington’s soccer coach, described Maxwell as a “total athlete.”
“She has all the components you look for,” he said. “She has the focus. She has the drive. She has, obviously, the athleticism.”
Irvington finished with a stellar 17-2-1 record last season, reaching the final of the Section 1 Class B Tournament. Maxwell led the way, especially at critical moments such as penalty kicks.
“She has ice in her veins. She is able to keep her composure and handle the pressure in those situations,” DiBenedetto said. “She is able to rise to the occasion when called upon.”
Maxwell, self-assured without being cocky, is keenly aware that the college level will challenge her as never before.
“I think it’s going to be completely different from what I’m used to,” she said. “I know the game is a lot quicker in college, and it’s definitely more physical. I need to get stronger.”
Maxwell makes her collegiate debut August 24 at Pepperdine. She could not be more excited to begin a new chapter in her young life.