Whether in basketball or soccer, Legacy rising junior Halle Mackiewicz has always been confident close to a goal.
So perhaps it is no surprise that, as the biggest goal of her life to this point rapidly approaches, Mackiewicz is showing signs that she is ready to tackle another big accomplishment.
It's not going to be easy, that being making the United States Under-17 Women's National Team that will be competing in the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup this November. Just three goalkeepers make the team to go to Uruguay, and a rather large provisional roster will be cut down to 21 for the final traveling roster.
But after winning a national development academy championship with Real Colorado and spending a recent week in Kansas City's U.S. Soccer National Development Center for a week of training with other elite national team hopefuls, Mackiewicz has a pretty clear vision of what she needs to do for the next few months in order to keep in contention for a spot.
"For me, when I go to these camps it's really you versus yourself and you're not trying to compare yourself to anybody," Mackiewicz said Tuesday, finally home after what has been a busy and pressure-packed July. "It's always just about me trying to get better, to keep up with what I'm doing for my development.
"Everyone's fighting hard for the opportunity to be on that team. So I'm just going to try and get better and see what I can do to get there."
Mackiewicz has been enthralled with the goalie position ever since she first made the transition from attack before she was 10 years old — a transition that came about when a youth coach suggested her hand-eye coordination was well above average.
In just a few short years, she was already getting invites to U.S. Soccer national team camps. In 2016, she was invited to be part of the U.S. Club Soccer id2 national selection team, and the ascent continued through 2017 when she was one of three goalies selected to train for the U.S. in Florida with two games against Haiti — in preparation for April's CONCACAF U-17 Championships in Nicaragua that served as the 2018 World Cup qualifier.
Mackiewicz never got a chance to make that CONCACAF team. During her training, she tore the UCL in one of her elbows, sidelining her for soccer for what turned out to be six months.
Somehow, she still managed to play basketball for the Lightning through the injury. A rather large brace didn't limit her skills, as she finished with a 15.1-point scoring average and hauled down 5.8 rebounds a game (12 games played).
The injury still worried her, but getting doctor's clearance to participate in the inaugural U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-16/U-17 national tournament with Real Colorado provided another opportunity to impress upon the national team's head coach, Mark Carr.
With Mackiewicz playing a key role in the run, Real Colorado went 6-0 and conceded just one goal while defeating three of the top five seeds. The championship game, played on July 11, was a 3-0 shutout win over Nationals (Pontiac, Michigan), and Mackiewicz would later be named the only goalie on Top Drawer Soccer's Central Conference Best XI team.
"I know our whole team was super excited about it, and I'd say winning nationals is a dream for everyone when they're coming up through the soccer system," Mackiewicz said. "To accomplish that feels amazing. Only one goal allowed ... we have always prided ourselves on defense and to continue in the big games like that was really cool. This team became my best friends and we were able to come together.
"(The Best XI honor) was really cool, but I can't take all the credit because my team helped me so much along the way."
Having been on Carr's radar already, Mackiewicz was immediately invited back to training at the NDC, which she said has continued to make her want to be the best.
Colorado has had its fair share of girls rise to prominence on a national level, with now-20-year-old Mallory Pugh (Mountain Vista) and 17-year-old Sophia Smith (Fossil Ridge) having gained experience with the senior women's national team. Golden's Lindsay Horan, of course, is a stalwart midfielder for the WNT.
Real Colorado players Lawson Willis (Cherry Creek) and Taeya Schueppert (Mountain Vista) joined Mackiewicz for training, as well.
Mackiewicz, who has already verbally committed to Clemson, dreams about being that next girl to rise to the top levels of women's soccer and add her name to the Centennial State's contributors to the game.
"Colorado's a big soccer state, and it's just cool to have the opportunities that I've been able to have," Mackiewicz said. "It's obviously going to make you better when you're around such great players, and everyone is very competitive there as well as just very focused. It's contagious and it helps to make a competitive environment that you can really learn and get better from."