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TimesLedger CHSAA Player of the Year: T.J. O’Leary

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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. O’Leary was the one player who stood out among the rest, not only because the senior from Bayside stood 6-foot-3.

“You couldn’t ask for more from a sweeper. When he plays, you know he’s on the field,” Molloy senior Keith Hahn said of O’Leary. “He’s all over the place, he’s aggressive and makes his presence felt when he’s out there.”

O’Leary was not only a vocal leader, but also led by example as he sacrificed his body countless times by diving and blocking shots. For O’Leary, 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 wasn’t going out without a championship. It’s been my main goal,” O’Leary said. “Winning the state championship was it for me. It was one of the biggest goals I’ve 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 that’s when O’Leary displayed his leadership and veteran poise.

O’Leary 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.

O’Leary is also a standout on the Molloy baseball team. Projected to be the team’s No. 2 starter, the lanky O’Leary 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.

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