When he returned to play soccer with his friends at Camas High School, Nick Palodichuk never thought he would win so many accolades.
The junior racked up 26 goals and 11 assists, while helping propel the Papermakers to third place in the 3A state soccer tournament. He was named the Greater St. Helen’s League Offensive Player of the Year and Gatorade Soccer Player of the Year for the state of Washington. He delivered the assist on the goal scored by Connor Valenter that helped Camas defeat number-three nationally ranked Shorecrest 1-0 in the state quarterfinals.
“Connor and I had a good connection going all season,” Palodichuk said. “Getting that goal against one of the best teams in the nation is one of those unbelievable moments I’ll never forget.”
After being named PARADE magazine’s 2010 All-America High School Boy’s Soccer Player of the Year, Palodichuk’s homecoming is complete. The 17-year-old was on the cover of Sunday’s issue in The Columbian, next to U.S. World Cup soccer player Landon Donovan and high school girl’s Player of the Year Morgan Brian, from Saint Simons Island, Ga.
“It’s the biggest award I could possibly get,” Palodichuk said. “I couldn’t imagine winning this without coach [Roland] Minder, and all of the great people I played with at Camas. This is why I came back. I got everything I wanted except for a state championship.”
Head coach Roland Minder could not have been more proud of Palodichuk’s return odyssey.
“Nick has just a natural joy that he brings to the team, and the players look up to him as a leader,” Minder said. “I have every confidence that this won’t be the last time we will be reading about Nick at a national level.”
Palodichuk was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Donovan in the days before he would be playing for Team USA in the World Cup in South Africa. Donovan was a member of the 1999 All-America Team in PARADE magazine. Since then, the 28-year-old forward for the L.A. Galaxy in Major League Soccer has lived up to his billing as one of the brightest soccer players in the country. He is a nine-time MLS all-star, and was named the 2009 league MVP.
“Any time you get to meet a great guy like Landon, you can’t help but root for him,” Palodichuk said. “He’s one of the best guys on Team USA, if not the best. It was so amazing to meet him, especially with the World Cup going on right now.”
Like many other Americans, Palodichuk was parked in front of a television Saturday, watching Team USA and England battle to a 1-1 tie.
“What’s great about the World Cup is you get to watch soccer every day,” Palodichuk said. “It only happens once every four years. It’s like the biggest sporting event on earth.”
Palodichuk began playing soccer when he was 4. After winning a state title with the Papermakers when he was a freshman, he got the opportunity to train for a year on the U.S. under-17 national team. Palodichuk played soccer in Argentina, Brazil, Guadalajara, Nigeria and Spain. He appeared in every game for Team USA in the U-17 World Cup, and scored the team’s only goal against Italy. When that magical ride had run its course, Palodichuk was ready to come back home.
“After the World Cup, all I thought about was playing soccer again for Camas High School,” he said. “I really missed all of my friends.”
With Palodichuk back the fold, the Papermakers won 19 straight games and captured league and district titles in their quest for another state championship. They only gave up three goals in those games. Defending state champion Shorecrest had won 39 games in a row, before losing to Camas in the state quarterfinals.
“It was the most exciting high school game I’ve played in my life,” Palodichuk said.
Mount Rainier derailed a dream season for the Papermakers in the semifinals. Palodichuk and company rebounded by picking up Camas victory number 20, and a third-place state trophy.
A few months ago, Palodichuk made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Duke University. He plans to finish up early at Camas High, and get a head start on his college career.
“I think it’s everyone’s goal to win a national title,” Palodichuk said. “I don’t want to go there just to play soccer, I want to make things happen. I want to win.”
Palodichuk said he was grateful to grow up around great coaching. He has a lot of respect for coach Minder at Camas, and U.S. National coach Wilmer Cabrera.
“Minder’s a great guy, and a great coach. He worked us hard, and he always brought out the best in us,” Palodichuk said. “I’ve had so many great coaches, and I want to give credit to all of them.”
He attributes his success on a local, national and international level to his parents, Linda and Dave, and all of the teammates he has played with.
“I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me the opportunity to play soccer anywhere I wanted to play,” Palodichuk said. “My friends and family have been a great support group.”