By Tyler Trent
Mia Oliaro announcing her decision to attend UNC (Photo courtesy of North Carolina Courage)
The University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the most storied collegiate women’s soccer team. UNC has 21 national championships to its name, 18 more than the following three schools tied with three each.
Great athletes are common to the UNC campus, with recent names like Alessia Russo, Crystal Dunn, and Emily Fox. All three of those women recently represented their countries at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, along with four other UNC graduates. The list of legends to come through the program is even longer, including Heather O’Reilly, Cindy Parlow Cone, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Tobin Heath, and many more notable women.
UNC signed the highest-rated class of incoming freshmen for the 2023 season, which included six players who all earned a spot in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s top 25 recruits. Five of the outfield freshmen players have made notable contributions on the pitch so far this season. Their names are likely to be among the ACC and possible national freshmen accolades for the season.
However, only one of those players is a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native – Mia Oliaro.
The hometown hero
Oliaro has lived in Chapel Hill her entire life with her parents and younger brother. Oliaro began playing soccer for the local YMCA when she was around three years old. “My parents signed me up for anything and everything. Living in Chapel Hill, youth soccer was very big, and it seemed like something they thought I would enjoy. I have continued playing ever since,” said Oliaro in a recent interview with Tyler from TopBin90.
Although soccer is the sport she has chosen to pursue, she tried her hand at multiple other sports in her youth, including lacrosse, basketball, and swimming. As a ten-year-old, Oliaro won the North Carolina state championships as a competitive swimmer, but she quit shortly after the achievement. With swimming in the past, Oliaro focused on soccer, lacrosse, and basketball until she started high school and joined the North Carolina Courage Academy. “I ultimately chose soccer because it was the sport I felt most challenged in, but I also found the most joy while playing. I grew up watching soccer, and for the most part, always envisioned myself playing soccer in college and beyond,” said Oliaro.
Oliaro is a very versatile player and has played all over the pitch in her young career so far, but she prefers to play out wide in the attack the most. Oliaro considers her work ethic and competitive nature one of her biggest strengths and something that sets her apart. “I always take pride in being the hardest working player on the field and giving 100% every time I play. This is my biggest strength because it allows me to find success even when things are not necessarily going my way.”
It would be criminal not to mention Oliaro’s extreme skill in the attack. She can take players on to create chances for her teammates and herself with her dribbling skills. Oliaro is also a strong passer who can play accurate crosses from out wide or line-breaking passes forward.
In a recent match against tenth-ranked Arkansas, Oliaro found herself on the top of the box with space to turn and face the goal. Anyone who has had the privilege to watch her on the pitch knew what was coming next. She lined up a shot and scored with a superb strike from outside the box to tie up the game 1-1. Her team went on to win the top-ten matchup 3-1 and stay undefeated on the season.
Olario has one goal and one assist this season. With 144 minutes spread across five matches, she is making the most out of her limited time in a roster overflowing with talent.
An experienced freshman
Although she is a freshman in college and only 18 years old, Oliaro has no shortage of top-level experience. She has spent time with the youth national teams of the United States, including the U-17 National Team. Oliaro considers her first goal for the U-17 team a defining moment of her career. Reflecting on the moment, Oliaro shared, “This goal meant a lot to me because it signified all my years of hard work paying off and allowed me to briefly celebrate my success. This goal was similar to many that I had scored at the club level, but scoring with the national team was a very special moment.”
Oliaro dribbles by a defender in the USL W League (Photo courtesy of North Carolina Courage)
This summer, Oliaro also played a significant role in the North Carolina Courage USL W League team’s success. The Courage went undefeated during the regular season with 11 wins and only one draw while scoring 46 goals. The Courage advanced to the playoffs, winning their first three games 3-0, 3-0, and 4-1 on their way to the final. After a hard-fought 120 match, the Courage fell to Indy Eleven 2-1 in the playoff final. Oliaro was named the USL W South Atlantic Division Player of the Year, the league's Young Player of the Year, and earned a position on the USL W League team of the year.
The young attacker values the time spent playing in the USL W League, saying, “This summer was an awesome opportunity to play with great players from different teams and under Willie Davis. I enjoyed getting to play so many games against challenging opponents and having consistent opportunities to test my skills and improve. It was great to be surrounded by players who pushed me in practice and were dedicated to helping our team win.”
“It was very cool to play in front of so many fans each game and to advance to the championship game. I am looking forward to next summer and having another chance to win the USL W League.”
Building on her success and honoring those who came before
As a Chapel Hill native, regularly having the opportunity to watch legendary women of the game was bound to have an influence on Oliaro growing up. She specifically admired Tobin Heath and Crystal Dunn, saying, “Both of these players thrived at UNC and with the US team. I always admired their abilities and looked to emulate some of each of their unique qualities in my play.”
Oliaro was also honored to be coached by Cindy Parlow Cone and Carla Overbeck, who she considers massive role models for her on and off the pitch.
Coming in as a freshman in a stacked UNC team that plays in one of the best collegiate soccer conferences would burden most players, but it’s perfect for a driven player like Oliaro. She set two main goals for herself this season.
Make the most of every minute she gets to play and give 100% every time she steps onto the field.
Embrace every role that she is put in and be a leader both by example and vocally.
In short, she wants to positively impact the game with every opportunity she gets on or off the pitch.
Oliaro is already accomplishing her goals as she continues to grow into the UNC team. However, off the field, she is just as serious. She is currently majoring in business with a minor in Spanish. She is also considering an entrepreneurship minor as well.
While soccer is perhaps her main focus in life, Oliaro knows the importance of taking the time to relax and enjoy herself. She loves to spend time with family and friends, play board and card games, bake, travel, and try new restaurants. She has also recently picked up the growing sport of pickleball.