By Victor Bryant, UCSB Athletics Communications
Sophomore goalkeeper Makenna Henry has been a key contributor to the UC Santa Barbara women's soccer team from the moment she stepped on campus starting 17 games as a freshman in 2010 and 19 of 20 in 2011.
Blessed with a maturity level that belies her young age Henry has developed a knack for turning potentially negative situations into opportunities to excel and her positive attitude is a breath of fresh air for those who come in contact with her.
"There's a level of maturity that Makenna brings, which may be attributed to her upbringing," said UCSB women's soccer head coach Paul Stumpf. "She has a way of putting things into perspective and understanding that as important as this is it's still just soccer."
Makenna's level-headed demeanor can be traced back to her mother Pamela, a single mother, who played a large role in her two daughter's lives in the absence of their father Kevin McKenzie.
"I definitely know the difference between a father and a dad," Makenna said. "My mother is my best friend, my mentor, my everything."
From a young age Makenna displayed excellent athleticism and began playing AYSO soccer at age six. By age 15 she was one of the best goalkeepers in the country and was invited to play on the Under-15 U.S. Girls' National Team.
The invitation gave her an opportunity to train and play with a group of standout players in a very professional setting.
"It was nice being around a lot of girls who had a high level of expectations for each other," Makenna said. "It was expected that you performed, were on time and worked as hard as you could every time."
During Makenna's junior year of high school at a time when her hard work, dedication and rare athleticism were beginning to attract the attention of college coaches she suffered a serious shoulder injury while warming up at an Olympic Developmental Camp.
The Injury was devastating for Makenna and was a major obstacle in her recruitment processes as her college offers began to diminish. Just before the injury Makenna was stunned by news that her father had stage-four cancer.
Makenna traveled to Boston to visit her father who she had not seen in 17 years. During the four days they spent together they got to know each other and she developed a sense of compassion for him. He passed a few weeks after her trip.
"The injury really affected everything in my world," Makenna said. "Offers went away and on top of that I was dealing with the loss of my father."
"My mindset was altered by the visit. If it wasn't for the cancer I probably still wouldn't know anything about him," Makenna said. "I had four days with him and my extended family and it was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It definitely affected me when I found out he died a few weeks later. Instead of having hate and resentment for him I was a lot more compassionate to the situation."
In the midst of these life altering developments Makenna had a major decision to make concerning which college she would attend. Despite her injury UCSB was still very interested in making her a Gaucho.
"I don't know exactly what happened to the other schools, but the shoulder injury didn't scare us off," Stumpf said. "Because of all we knew about her as a person and her as a player we just wanted to continue to recruit her. We felt like her upside here was going to be very good and it has proved to be just that."
While Makenna was on her visit to the UCSB campus she had the feeling that Santa Barbara was the place for her.
"It's corny, but I came on a visit and I just had that feeling, it was a gut-check," she said. "I didn't want to go anywhere else, I came with my mom and I looked at her and said this is the school."
Makenna's impact on the team was immediate as she started in goal during the Gauchos season opener. Early in her freshman season she helped the Gauchos to a 1-1 tie against 13th-ranked UCLA, with a seven-save performance and was named Big West co-defender of the week.
"We kind of felt like she's young, but she's going to have 10 or 12 games leading up to conference play," Stumpf said. "In addition to that she was just the best goalkeeper that we had and our philosophy here is that if you want to start you have to prove to us on the practice field that you're one of the best 11."
Makenna's presence in goal is an area of strength for the Gauchos this season. Her experiences off the field are a major asset as the team looks to rebound from a rough start to the season and make some noise in Big West play.