Though it came to an untimely end Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Atlantic 10 Championship, men’s soccer surprised the league this season, winning the league’s regular season title after being picked 10th during the preseason.
Sophomore Oliver Curry collected six points on two goals and two assists throughout the season – not the first time he’s overcome long odds. The Santa Monica, Calif. native wasn’t recruited by GW during high school – he wasn’t recruited by any Division I programs – but he was determined to make it at a higher level.
“It was definitely a really tough moment for me, having gotten into a great university but not knowing if I was going to continue playing the game that I love. So now that I have had success, it’s become a really fun story to tell,” Curry said. “Just kind of one of those inspirational ones that you tell your friends or you tell little kids to keep working hard.”
Curry was a standout player at the Windward School, but not playing on an academy team coupled with the depth of athletic talent in Southern California, meant he only received several Division III offers.
Curry didn’t think he was a Division III player. He talked to his parents, convincing them that he could go it alone. He applied to GW, which he loved for its international affairs program, and got in.
A former player found out that he was headed to Foggy Bottom, and called head coach Craig Jones to tell him that Curry might be someone to take a look at. Jones invited him to the team’s identification camp over the summer.
“He came into the camp and we were instantly like, ‘Wow, this kid. We’ve got to offer him a spot,’” Jones said.
Curry had found a place with the team, but had to catch up with the rest of the players who had benefited from the program’s built-in infrastructure like summer workout plans. The preseason was physically grueling, but when the regular season opener came around, Curry had surprised his coaches, parents and himself by securing a starting spot.
He went on, in his freshman campaign, to lead the team in assists and play in all 17 games, starting six.
Curry said that, even for him, it happened faster than he expected. But carving out a role for himself was even more rewarding given the chance he’d taken in trying out for the team.
“It was a very big judgment call, I would say, where I had to decide whether I wanted to, I guess, settle for Division III and maybe play a little bit more or try and test myself by going the route of trying to walk on to Division I,” Curry said. “So happily it worked out. It worked out great. I have no regrets.”
After his success freshman year, Curry had more confidence that he would be able to contribute to the team going forward, until he suffered a hamstring injury – his fourth, but first in college – at the beginning of the season.
He missed a month, including the team’s West Coast road trip at the beginning of the summer where his parents could have watched him play, but was able to come back in good form. Curry played in 12 games, starting two, and was still fourth best on the team in points. On a per-minute basis, he was the most efficient player on the team, notching a point for every 55 minutes he spent on the field.
“I think this year, you know he probably would have liked to have played more minutes, but when he does play he’s a threat,” Jones said.
He hopes to play professionally, though he knows the odds are even slimmer than making it at the D-I level. Curry has wanted to go pro since he started kicking a ball at age five, but the dream began to feel more possible when he made it to GW.
He knows the odds are slim, though, so every minute Curry does play, he says he enjoys more because it might not have happened at all.
“Thinking about it from the perspective of maybe being somewhere else, or maybe being at another level and then realizing that I’m at this incredibly high level now, makes me that much more thankful and that much more hungry for success,” Curry said. “So, yeah, even just before the games when I’m walking into the locker room I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, look at how you got here look at what you’ve done. Just keep working hard.’”