Oakton forward Christian Ollen slammed his head on cold turf in the team’s first scrimmage of the year back in March, and that’s exactly the moment Ollen began to lose shape. He had a concussion, and was medically ordered to sit out half the year. There was no light running, no casual passing or shooting. There would be questions to answer even after he came back onto the field in April, too. Would he be the same player? Would there be another scare if he banged his head?
The best treatment for Ollen, during his most trying year of high school soccer, has been rebuilding his game under the flag of a team that has yet to taste defeat. The Cougars (18-0-2) will meet Cosby in tonight’s state semifinal at Westfield, and Ollen enters the match on a tear; he’s scored a goal and added three assists in the past two games (routs of Mount Vernon and Broad Run).
“It was hard watching our players out there without me. It was made easier by our team winning,” Ollen said. “I had to get back in shape. Start running again. Get used to passing it around with the boys … We have a lot of new players this year that have stepped up.”
It has been an odd year for Ollen, who was the second-half of the Oakton tandem (along with Patrick Moore) that was left out in the cold recruiting-wise last fall when Richmond closed down its men’s soccer program. Ollen and Moore grew up together in Vienna and remain neighbors – and they decided at an early age that they would play college soccer together. They both committed early – with Ollen giving his verbal to the Spiders last spring and Moore following suit a few weeks later.
“It was definitely disappointing when Richmond folded up,” Ollen said. “I was really looking forward to spending college with [Moore]. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Moore eventually found his school in James Madison, but Ollen chose a different path. The seeds had been sown with Army before he committed to Richmond, and coaches from West Point re-entered the picture this fall to try and grab the talented Ollen, a player who has proven to carry all the tools of a promising college player: deceptive quickness, intelligence in the open field and a terrific touch on the ball around the net. He signed with Army in January.
“It’s definitely not the typical college experience. It was something that was appealing to me,” Ollen said. “Getting the opportunity to serve my country is something I definitely look forward to.”
Ollen is finally back in full stride with the Cougars, a six-week process of re-hardening the body and returning the senses in his feet. It couldn’t have happened at a better time of the year – the Cougars have scored 23 goals in their past seven games, and Ollen has been a centerpiece in the effort.
“The state title was always the goal,” Ollen said. “It makes us hungry to get out there and accomplish our goals.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 6
The number George Mason’s girls’ soccer team will be chasing this weekend. With five consecutive Group A state title wins, the Mustangs have the opportunity to re-set the state record with another title in Radford.
— Check out the 2013 Spring All-Met teams in baseball, softball, boys’ lacrosse, girls’ lacrosse, boys’ soccer, girls’ soccer, boys’ track & field, girls’ track & field, boys’ rowing, girls’ rowing, golf and gymnastics. And watch a video with highlights from the entire 2012-13 school year.
— As one of the most popular students at T.C. Williams, openly gay track star Terrence Curry refuses to allow his sexuality define him.
— George Mason freshman Mariam Salakaia was brilliant in her first showing at the state tennis tournament in Radford Thursday, winning the Group A girls singles title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Gate City sophomore Rosa Smith.
WHAT TO WATCH
Group A and AA state tennis, Roanoke/Virginia Tech (Blacksburg), 9 a.m.
After edging James Monroe 5-4 in Tuesday’s Region I title match, the Briar Woods boys’ team will take on Hidden Valley in today’s state semifinal in Blacksburg (noon). In Group A girls team action, George Mason will meet Gate City at noon, and the Mustangs boys’ squad will meet the Blue Devils at noon. George Mason sophomore Kynadi Mauney and her sister, freshman Carrington Mauney, will face Rappahannock in the girls’ doubles semifinals Friday at 3 p.m.