It became clear when Archbishop Molloy defeated St. John the Baptist to win the CHSAA state soccer crown that a member of the Stanners would be named TimesLedger CHSAA Queens Player of the Year. But as is so often the case with championship teams, there were several players deserving of the honor.
Would we go with Rob Sardis, who was the epitome of a clutch scorer and who netted the championship-clinching goal? Or would it be sophomore goalkeeper Mike Testa, who was absolutely brilliant against St. John the Baptist?
After much debate, the decision actually became quite evident. On a team that prided itself on its solid defense, T.J. OLeary was the one player who stood out among the rest, not only because the senior from Bayside stood 6-foot-3.
You couldnt ask for more from a sweeper. When he plays, you know hes on the field, Molloy senior Keith Hahn said of OLeary. Hes all over the place, hes aggressive and makes his presence felt when hes out there.
OLeary was not only a vocal leader, but also led by example as he sacrificed his body countless times by diving and blocking shots. For OLeary, who has been playing soccer since he was four years old, winning the state championship is somewhat of a dream come true.
I always said when I was a freshman I wasnt going out without a championship. Its been my main goal, OLeary said. Winning the state championship was it for me. It was one of the biggest goals Ive achieved in my life.
Despite a successful season which included a second straight division crown, the state title seemed like a long shot after Molloy was crushed in the city championship game by Monsignor Farrell, 4-0. But thats when OLeary displayed his leadership and veteran poise.
OLeary then led by example, heading in the lone goal in a 1-0 win over St. Joseph (Buffalo) in the semifinal and anchored a Stanners defense that was under constant pressure from St. John the Baptist.
OLeary is also a standout on the Molloy baseball team. Projected to be the teams No. 2 starter, the lanky OLeary throws a fastball in the mid 80s but is being recruited by soccer programs at Manhattanville, Central Connecticut State, Marist, the University of Scranton and Buffalo State.
©2002 Community News Group
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