Still loving the game
The surface of a soccer ball is 20 hexagonal and 12 pentagonal shapes stitched together.
The bonding of those shapes is as strong as the friendship between Eryn Brown, Brittney Oljar and Olivia Lovell from all the years of playing soccer together in Camas.
In 2009, these three Papermaker alums helped the Camas High School girls soccer team finish in third place at the state tournament. Brown and Oljar graduated from CHS in 2010, and Lovell followed in 2012.
On Friday, they reunited at the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation Complex. Oljar and Lovell helped the Oregon State Beavers defeat Brown and the Portland State Vikings 2-1 in an intense soccer match that went end-to-end for 90 minutes. The Vikings grabbed a 1-0 advantage on a goal in the ninth minute, before the Beavers rallied on back-to-back headers in the 72nd and the 73rd minutes. Oljar tied the game after winning a scramble for the ball in front of the box and nailing it into the net before the goalkeeper could react.
“The ball bounced off one of the opposing players and was just up there spinning kind of funny,” Oljar said. “I was just at the right place and the right time to be able to get my head on it, and put it in.”
Oljar was overjoyed. She turned around and Lovell was the first one to congratulate her — just like their days and nights at Doc Harris Stadium, back in Camas.
“Olivia is like my sister,” Oljar said. “We’ve been best friends on the field and off the field for 10 years.”
“We’ve been playing together for so long, and our families are really tight,” Lovell added. “It’s great that we still have that connection from three years ago.”
Parents John and Connie Oljar, and Don and Alison Lovell, have been to every Oregon State game so far this season. On Friday, they reconnected with Dean and Christine Brown. Their daughter Eryn is coming back from a torn ACL and meniscus that sidelined her for about 10 months.
“I have a whole new appreciation for the game of soccer,” she said. “I no longer take any second on the field for granted.”
Brown said soccer has always been her outlet for creativity. During the injury, she had to find a way to live without it. She turned to music, and bought herself a guitar.
“I played piano for nine years before I gave it up for soccer. Once I got hurt, I remembered I liked music,” she said. “Even though I’m healed, I still love to pick up the guitar and create music. It’s super fun.”
Lovell is just getting her feet wet as a freshman. She hasn’t even started college classes yet, and she has already made two starts for the Beavers.
“I went to a lot of University of Portland games growing up. To be able to make my first start there in front of my family and friends is something I’m never going to forget,” Lovell said. “I don’t feel like I’m new to this team. I feel like I’ve been playing with these girls forever. Even if I don’t start the game, I’m determined to get on the field and make an impact.”
Oljar made the transition from defender to attacking midfielder. Instead of clearing the ball and passing it to others, she is the one on the finishing end of things.
“It’s a totally different mindset, but one that I’m comfortable with because of my size, quickness and aggressiveness” Oljar said. “It just works more to my strengths.”
Brown, Oljar and Lovell look back at their high school soccer days with great pride. Oljar said coaches Roland Minder and Paul Della Valle gave them the tools to be successful in college. What they will cherish most about the game of soccer is the lifelong friendship they stitched together.
“I feel blessed to have been able to play this game my whole life,” Brown said. “I’ve made so many friends. I couldn’t be more thankful for what this game has given to me.”
Although Brown was unable to play soccer for almost a year, she never lost her passion for the game. She loves soccer even more now because it was almost taken away from her. Knee injuries are common in this game, but Brown is living proof that you can come back from one even stronger.
“It totally changed my life, and completely for the better,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason. And the reason you find will be better than anything you felt that you lost.”