Georgia soccer

The Georgia Bulldogs celebrate their first goal during the soccer game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Missouri Tigers in Athens, Ga., Friday, September 28, 2012. (Evan Stichler, evansan8@gmail.com)

Jill Maloney isn't your typical collegiate soccer player.

Before entering college, Georgia soccer goalkeeper Maloney accomplished some goals that other players strive for throughout their whole careers. She participated in 38 international competitions in 24 different countries before signing with the Bulldogs.

Maloney hasn't let her early success get to her head. Her coaches always admire the positive attitude she brings to the pitch.

Georgia soccer head coach Steve Holeman said he believes the University has a reputation for its strong performance in sports and academics, making it easy to recruit someone like Maloney.

“Jill was one of them. She is extremely talented and intelligent,” Holeman said. “First and foremost, she is a great person. She has all of the qualities. As a player she is one of the top goalies in the country, and we wanted her to stay close to home. She is just a good person.”

She attracted the coach’s attention with her stellar play. It also helps that she is ranked 65th on ESPN’s top 150 class of 2013.

“She ranks in the highest with the people I have coached,” Holeman said. “I have coached a couple of national teams so that is saying something."

Despite her youth, Maloney has quite an impressive resume. In 2012, she was the backup keeper for the Atlanta Silverbacks. She was also a member of the U-14 and U-15 United States national team in 2009 and 2010.

One of her biggest accomplishments, however, happened when she helped the Republic of Ireland’s U-19 team to two wins in Amsterdam in early April. For Maloney, playing on the Irish national team was a blessing in disguise.

“At first, I started playing with the team because I got let go from the US team. I played for the US team with the U-15 and U-16 team, and I found out that I could play for Ireland,” Maloney said. “It started out to be small, but then it turned into a big deal because my grandparents emigrated from Ireland. So, I felt like I was honoring their heritage and I was playing for my family.”

Maloney has made many great plays throughout her short career, but her most memorable moment was during her stretch as a member of the Ireland national team.

“Our Ireland team won our first game. We had to tie Italy to win the group and we did,” Maloney said. “I made a big save and I remember how crazy the crowd was and seeing the Ireland flags waving was very special to me.”

Maloney joined Georgia's soccer team in January after an early graduation, and she said she believes the Ireland session has prepared her for the college game.

“In college, you have more conditioning and training, so the Ireland session helped me adjust to the big jump to college,” Maloney said. “It was good for me to do this.”

With Maloney’s quick success, it is obvious that she had a variety of college offers. She chose to play for the Bulldogs because of the great people she met.

“I chose to go to Georgia ... I wasn’t really expecting to like it,” Maloney said. “I wanted to go somewhere up north. But, when I got here, I loved the coaches, the people and the campus is really nice.”

Maloney is a person who wants to express her talent in everything she does, but outside of her soccer abilities, she is just a regular teenager.

“I watch a lot of TV and play video games. I’m trying to publish a novel,” Maloney said. “I’m just trying to do a little bit of everything right now.”