As an Ivy League graduate, Olivia Sheppard is on her way to a promising career in medicine. She just needs to get her kicks in overseas first.
Coming off an impressive NCAA career at Princeton University, the 23-year-old soccer standout from Tsawwassen is taking her talent to the professional level after signing with UMF Afturelding of Iceland’s national women’s league. The season will commence in May and run until the fall.
Sheppard says it was a matter of the right fit at the right time in her life.
After majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, the plan was to apply for med school immediately until the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring. The process came to a halt and Sheppard had the time to explore the options of potentially extending her playing career.
“I looked into playing opportunities specifically abroad. I felt like there would not be another time of my life where I get to play the sport I love and travel to beautiful countries,” explained the South Delta Secondary graduate. I had an agent but the process was slow since, knowing I was going to med school, it had to be a perfect fit for me (from a timing standpoint). I know that school would always be there and once I go down the med pathway, I will eventually be working the rest of my life.
“Once I saw the Iceland contract I was pretty sold in terms of location. Iceland is at the top of my bucket list and they have a great playing culture. I was happy.”
Her deal includes travel expenses, sharing an apartment with a teammate and use of a car, in addition to her salary. The plan is to head to Iceland in March and get a number of exhibition matches under her belt.
Sheppard has been busy back at home studying for her Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), tutoring and coaching at her former youth club Coastal FC where she is a member of the technical staff. She has also been training with its premier team in the Metro Women’s Soccer League that also features some university players back at home due to the pandemic.
After soccer, the one-time U20 national team member hopes to get into a pediatrics program on either side of the border.
“I did a summer internship in France in my sophomore year. I worked in a pediatric surgical unit and I loved it,” added Sheppard. “That is definitely something I could see myself doing in the long term for a career. I am unsure as to whether go to school or Canada or in the (Northeastern) US. I’m looking to keep those options open.”
Her career with Princeton included 56 starts over four years on the backline and in midfield. She was an All-Ivy League honourable mention in her junior year in helping the New Jersey school repeat as conference champions and advance to the NCAA Tournament.