Senior Owen Ovecka was picked as team captain because of his willingness to do anything for the team.
John Dunlop puts a lot of stock into his captains.
So when the Father Judge High School soccer coach made his selection for the current year, he made sure to pick a guy who would do anything for the team.
He found that in senior Owen Ovecka.
“I was so happy he picked me, but I was also shocked because there are so many great players on this team, I didn’t expect it,” said Ovecka, a striker who is also playing defensive midfield this year. “I know it’s my job to make sure everyone works hard and believes in themselves, but that’s not going to be too hard. This team is really good, and everyone is working so hard.”
Ovecka has always had a sidekick when it came to working out.
He has a twin brother, Ryan, who was also a soccer player growing up. But now that he’s in high school, his brother has decided to play football.
They might not play the same sports, but they still keep the competitive fire burning, and so far it’s played a big part in their athletic success.
“We compete at everything, we always try to see who is bigger, who is stronger, who is smarter,” Ovecka said. “I think I’m better at everything and I know he would give you a different answer.
“It helps to have someone like that. It helps motivate you. He’s a great athlete. He was good at soccer and he still plays on our club team, but he’s focusing on football. He’s good, he’s playing defensive back. He could be the kicker, but they already had a good one.”
While Ryan is helping the Crusaders in football, Owen is helping the soccer team work to get back to the top of the Catholic League.
Judge has been one of the best teams in the PCL over the past few seasons, although last year was a bit of a letdown. The Crusaders finished below .500 and were ousted from the playoffs in the first round of the tournament.
Ovecka believes that’s a one-year hiccup, and Judge should be back among the top teams this year.
“Last year wasn’t bad, it was just a struggle to get going,” Ovecka said. “I don’t think it was because we weren’t trying, we just didn’t come together as a team. This year, especially because I’m a captain, my goal was to make sure we all came together as a team, but it hasn’t been hard at all. We were all going in the same direction right from the start.
“I think it helps that we all get along so well. We are all playing for the same thing. We just want to play well.”
Ovecka is doing his part as a leader, but he’s also doing his part as a player.
Prior to high school, he was primarily a goal scorer, but Judge had plenty of guys who could fill the net.
The Crusaders were a little light on the defensive end so Dunlop asked Ovecka if he’d mind moving back to the midfield.
He didn’t have to ask twice.
“Scoring goals is a lot of fun, but stopping people from scoring is just as much fun,” Ovecka said. “It took a little while to get used to it, but I think I’m doing better at it. I’ll play wherever they need me. I just want to be on a winning team.”
That’s the goal, and Ovecka likes what he sees thus far.
Judge started the preseason 1–2–1, but picked up a win in its first Catholic League game by downing Bonner-Prendergast 1–0.
Every game is important, but the true goal is to be successful in the Catholic League.
“There are a lot of good teams in the league, but I think we’re as good as anyone if we play the way we’re capable of playing,” Ovecka said. “We aren’t where we want to be, but we’re getting there. We’re playing for each other, and that’s a big reason why we’re playing better than we did last year. We’re working together.”
One of the reasons his teammates are playing so hard is to honor Ovecka’s mom, who passed away when he was a sophomore.
In fact, it was then that he realized how important the Father Judge soccer team was to him.
“The entire team came to her funeral and they were all there for me,” said Ovecka, who lives in Parkwood. “I don’t want to say we’re playing for her this year, but we’re playing for each other. And we are all there for each other. I’m playing for her, and we’re all playing for each other. We all want what’s best for each other.”
Ovecka hopes to end his Judge career on a positive note, and then continue his soccer career in college. He’s unsure about what he would major in, although he does enjoy math, so business or accounting is an option. Those are things he’ll worry about after the Crusaders finish up what could be a memorable season.
“I think we could win the championship,” Ovecka said. “We have a lot of talent, but we’re better together than we are as players. We have everything we need. I think we can do really good.”