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Our Rich History: Olivia Huber Bryant, a standout Thomas More performer in soccer and basketball

By Raymond Hebert
Thomas More University

Sources for this article include: Statistics provided by Michael Pagano Co-Director of Sports Information, TMU Athletics, and print media as noted.

In the spring 2016 issue of Moreover, the Thomas More alumni magazine, Judy Crist described Olivia Huber’s athletic successes as a “sports career for the ages,” adding that “Olivia Huber’s college athletic career is coming to an end and what a career it has been: Olivia has never lost a PAC conference or tournament game. Ever. In two sports” (Judy Crist, “A Sports Career for the Ages” Moreover, April 21, 2016, p. 10).

When Olivia arrived on campus after a stellar career at Newport Central Catholic High School (NCC), she had made it clear that her choice of coming to TMC was predicated on playing both of the sports that she loved. As proof of her versatility, as an NCC Thoroughbred she earned four varsity letters in soccer while playing basketball as well. She was the second leading scorer in Newport Central Catholic history, with 54 goals and 16 assists.

Olivia Huber Bryant, during the 2015 soccer season. In her senior season, she set PAC records for career goals (100), assists (40), and points (240). (Thomas More University Archives)  

While at Thomas More, Huber was at the top of her soccer game from the first years on: in her first year (2012), she was the team’s second leading scorer with 16 goals and 5 assists for 37 points and was selected Second Team All-President’s Athletic Conference (PAC). In year II (2013), she stepped it up a notch and led the team in points (52), goals (22) and was tied in assists (8). This earned her, in only her second year, naming to First Team All-PAC, First Team All-Great Lakes Region and Third Team All-American. Her third year (2014) was somehow even better, as her 89 points and 36 goals led all of Division III in those categories, and her 17 assists ranked fourth nationally. The recognition followed expectedly, as she was named PAC Player of the Year and First Team All-PAC, as well as First Team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region and two different All-American designations: Second Team NSCAA and Third Team by D3soccer.com.

Even more impressive is that was only a precursor to her remarkable season in her senior year in 2015 when, in only 22 games played, she had 26 goals and 10 assists for 62 points, including 6 game-winning goals. For the third consecutive year, she was First Team All-PAC and again a D3soccer.com All-American (Third Team). Through 2022, looking back at her outstanding career, she still somehow holds the career record for goals (100), assists (40) and points (24). When broken down, she also still holds the program record for single season goals scored (36), assists (17), and most points (89).

In 2013 the Thomas More women’s soccer team won the PAC Championship. (Thomas More University Archives) 

In a 2014 Cincinnati Enquirer article, Marc Hardin praised Huber during her enormously successful junior year as “one of the best players in Thomas More history,” reminding his readers how she had “converted 45 percent of her shots on goal, supplied 37 percent of the team’s scoring and 22 percent of assisting passes on a team loaded with talent, nearly all of it locally produced” (Marc Hardin, “Saint Huber brings timely, key moments to TMC soccer,” Cincinnati.com/The Enquirer). As an example of Huber’s ability to shine in crucial games, in the 2013 NCAA Division III Regional—when Thomas More opened up as a #8 seed and was facing #1 seed Piedmont College with a record of 20-2-1—Thomas More won the game 5-1, with Olivia scoring two of those goals and assisting a third (Timmy McCormack, Director of Athletic Communications, Piedmont College, Game Report). It was noted in that same game summary that the Saints’ Olivia Huber had tallied multiple goals in a single game for the 8th time that season.

Meanwhile, Olivia Huber also made significant contributions over her Thomas More career to the Women’s Basketball Program as the first substitute to enter the game, particularly when an opponent was scoring more successfully than Coach Jeff Hans could tolerate. Huber was known for her speed and quick hands-on defense and was a pivotal part of the first Thomas More Women’s Basketball National Championship team (led by Sydney Moss).

In a 2015 New York Times article, Jere Longman reflected upon the undefeated Saints that year, as they arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the Final Four with Sydney Moss as the team leader: “Thomas More is hardly a one-woman team, largely drawing players from Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. The first reserve, Olivia Huber, for example, is an All-American soccer player who led all of Division III in scoring last fall. She is a defensive-minded guard in basketball and rapacious forward in soccer, positions that might seem contradictory but demand acute focus and an insistence to be near the ball” (Jere Longman, “A Kentucky Team and its Star Seek Their Own Fame,” The New York Times, March 19, 2015, p. 4). That kind of versatility is clearly what defines Olivia Huber Bryant more than anything else.

Olivia Huber Bryant played a pivotal role in the women’s basketball team, winning the national championship during the 2015–2016 season. (Courtesy of Jackson Sports Photography)

Huber’s career started when she left Newport Central Catholic with the promise that she could participate in both sports at Thomas More College and, as seen, she did it well. In the Marc Harding article mentioned earlier, it was her humility that stood out as she began the interview by saying that “I couldn’t do anything without the help of all my team-mates,” and noting that she was blessed to have played with talented performers like Abby Stadtmiller, Kait Owens, Erika LaRosa, Josie Perrino, Laura Felix and Emily Sanker as the goalkeeper. It was not uncommon, for example, as noted in the President’s Athletic Conference’(PAC)’s Women’s Soccer Report for the Week (circulated on September 1, 2014) for Olivia Huber to be the “PAC Offensive Player of the Week” and Emily Sanker to be the “PAC Defensive Player/Goalkeeper of the Week.” Her coach was the consistently successful, highly respected Jeff Cummings. The human side of Olivia Huber Bryant also emerges from the Moreover article above, recalling that during Olivia’s four years on two intercollegiate teams, “she was part of 203 victories, 16 total PAC championships (eight tournament titles and eight regular season titles), two NCAA Elite Eights and Sweet Sixteens and two NCAA Final Four appearances including two DIII National Championships.” A close analysis shows an average of 50 victories a year with 92.7 percent of the games she played being victories (203-11-5 overall)—all while maintaining a 3.57 overall GPA as an elementary education major.

In 2022 Olivia Huber Bryant was named to the Thomas More Athletics Hall of Fame. Here with Thomas More Director of Athletics Terry Connor and Coach Jeff Hans. (Thomas More Athletics)

Not surprisingly, at her Senior Night, the PAC commissioner, in a rare expansion beyond his prepared comments, summarized her career well: “There are likely few athletes in the history of NCAA Division III that can match her multi-sport resume and accomplishments. As a two-sport student athlete who is succeeding at the highest level of competition while being equally successful in the classroom, she exemplifies what the PAC and NCAA Division III are all about: academic and athletic excellence in a balanced environment.”

It is certainly fitting that the Moreover article published at the end of her career was entitled “A Sports Career for the Ages.” Huber was inducted into the Thomas More University Sports Hall of Fame in 2022.

Dr. Raymond G. Hebert is Professor of History and Executive Director of the William T. Robinson III Institute for Religious Liberty at Thomas More University. He is the leading author of Thomas More University at 100: Purpose, People, and Pathways to Student Success (2023). The book can be purchased by contacting the Thomas More University Bookstore at 859-344-3335. Dr. Hebert can be contacted at hebertr@thomasmore.edu.

Paul A. Tenkotte, PhD is Editor of the “Our Rich History” weekly series and Professor of History and Gender Studies at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). He also serves as Director of the ORVILLE Project (Ohio River Valley Innovation Library and Learning Enrichment), as well as Editor of the forthcoming ORVIE (Ohio River Valley Innovation Encyclopedia), previewing in Summer 2024. ORVIE is now recruiting authors for entries on all aspects of innovation in the Ohio River Watershed including: Cincinnati (OH) and Northern Kentucky; Ashland, Lexington, Louisville, Maysville, Owensboro and Paducah (KY); Columbus, Dayton, Marietta, Portsmouth, and Steubenville (OH); Evansville, Madison and Indianapolis (IN), Pittsburgh (PA), Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, and Wheeling (WV), Cairo (IL), and Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Nashville (TN). If you would like to be involved in ORVILLE or ORVIE, please contact Paul Tenkotte at tenkottep@nku.edu.

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