MORRIS — When Mac Van Oudt attended a soccer camp with the Morris Community High School boys team two years ago, he didn't think he would make history.
But, he hoped he would.
The Redskins attended a camp at Eastern Illinois University the summer before recent graduate Van Oudt's junior year. Morris finished second in the 10-team tournament held at the camp, and Van Oudt won the Golden Glove award as the best goalie at the camp.
A few days after the camp, Eastern Illinois coach Kiki Lara sent a text to Morris coach David Valdivia.
"Coach Valdivia showed me the text," Van Oudt said. "The Eastern coach said he liked what he saw in me and wanted to keep in touch."
Van Oudt did keep in touch with the EIU staff, and has signed a letter-of-intent to play for the Panthers. In the process, he has become the first Morris player to go on to play for a Division I college.
"I really didn't think much about getting recruited at that camp," Van Oudt said. "I just wanted to play hard and help the team finish as high as we could.
"I got man of the match a couple of times down there, and I won the Golden Glove award as the best goalie, which I really didn't think I would get."
After seeing the interest from the EIU staff, Van Oudt had a whole new goal in mind.
"That really drove me to want to be the first player in Morris history to go Division I," he said. "I had a goalie coach in travel soccer that said I could maybe play Division II or III. I kept saying, 'No. I want to play Division I.'"
Van Oudt has had to fight naysayers throughout his career, but he feels that helped add to his drive.
"I had an older goalie on my team in travel that wasn't very nice," he said. "I was pushing him for playing time, and he kept telling me that I wasn't good at different things. That really made me want to play harder and get better.
"It wasn't very enjoyable when it was happening, but it made me work harder and become a better player."
Valdivia is very happy to have a player reach Division I.
"I am very happy for Mac," he said. "We as a program work hard to get kids opportunities that we never had as players. Going to that camp has been very good for us.
"I think Mac will be fine at the next level. He has the athleticism to do it, and he has the drive. He sets goals for himself and works hard to achieve them. He is also a very good student and knows how to prioritize things."
Van Oudt began his soccer career at the age of 6 in the Morris Soccer Association, playing all positions.
"When I was about 10, the coaches decided that goalie was my best position," he said. "When I would play forward, I would get a lot of fouls called on me. I wasn't very good there."
Van Oudt played travel soccer from sixth through eight grade for Southwest Soccer Club in Homer Glen before the drive became too much and he joined Three Rivers Soccer Club in Channahon. Three Rivers recently joined a larger group called Chicago Rush, for which Van Oudt played on the South Team. When the season ended in June, the Rush had a tryout for all four of their teams to form an all-star squad, and Van Oudt made that team. They qualified for a regional in Westchester, Ohio, where they took second in the Midwest Region.
Van Oudt enjoys making a big save and drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd, as well as directing the defense.
"When I was a freshman, I wanted to be a captain," he said. "[JV coach] Abel Valdivia told me I had to be more vocal and more confident, so I worked on that. I was a two-time JV captain and a two-time varsity captain."
He will go to EIU on Aug. 3 for a players-only practice before the preseason practices begin on Aug. 8.
"I am really excited to get going," he said. "I feel like I have a good chance of getting some playing time soon. I am the strongest and fittest I have ever been. I am really looking to help push the team forward."