Steamboat’s Ocoee Wilson changes uniforms but soccer dream remains the same
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Growing up in Steamboat Springs, Ocoee Wilson always dreamed of playing soccer in college.
Today she is living that dream at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, but that doesn’t mean that the standout goalkeeper has not had to clear a few hurdles since leaving the high school ranks following the 2016 season.
“I think that in some aspects it is what I expected it to be, and in some areas, it’s a lot harder. No matter how much I love soccer — and I think everyone in town knows that I love soccer — college is really mentally tough,” Wilson said.
“That’s something that I’ve noticed with a lot of players that come in and don’t realize how hard it is going to be when they are coming from the high school level where they were starting every game, and they were the star player, and now, they are coming to a place where you are constantly fighting just to get some time,” Wilson explained.
In her first eight games this season at St. Edwards, Wilson looked a lot like the goalkeeper many soccer fans in Steamboat Springs came to love during the 2015-16 season when the Sailors advanced to the state semifinals with a 16-2 overall record and a 12-0 conference mark. The Sailors fell to Lewis Palmer in the state quarterfinals that year.
By the end of that season, Wilson had established herself as one of the top goalies in the state of Colorado with 10 shutouts and 160 saves.
After high school, Wilson signed to play for the Dallas Baptist University Patriots.
“For the most part, it did not go the way I hoped it would,” Wilson said of her first year at DBU. “I really liked the school, and I really liked a lot of the friends I had there. But my coaches had put me in situations that players should never be put in.”
She struggled with a roommate during that first year, and the coaching staff could not seem to correct the issues. By the end of the year, she knew she needed a change.
“I tried my best to stick around,” she said. “You tell yourself this is a situation I need to get out of now, and that I would be better off in the long run.”
But last fall, Wilson finally made the decision to transfer to nearby St. Edwards University to find a fresh start. The good news was she would only be a couple of hours from her friends at Dallas Baptist; the bad news is she would be playing in the same conference as her former team.
“The hardest part was leaving my teammates,” Wilson said. “I would say it helped that I was able to start the season so strong.”
In fact, Wilson was perfect through the first eight games of the 2017 season, never surrendering a goal. After only two matches, she received Heartland Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“I felt like I really came in with this drive to not only prove myself on the team but to also prove to myself that I could play at this level,” Wilson said.
During that impressive run, the Hilltoppers beat Dallas Baptist in a 1-0 contest in week three, a moment that was sweet for Wilson as she worked hard to rebuild her confidence.
“It was such a stressful game,” Wilson said of her first meeting with DBU. “We scored in the first 10 minutes of the game, and that was our only shot on goal. The rest of the game it was just DBU shooting on us constantly.”
Wilson said she really wanted to win the game to prove herself and to show her former coaches that she had rebound from the things that she had gone through the year before.
“It felt good to win and to see my friends again,” Wilson said.
St. Edwards amassed an 11-3-5 record, wrapping up the conference season with four straight wins, including three shutouts. But Wilson suffered a high ankle injury with two games left in the regular season, and the Hilltoppers fell to Rogers State University in the Heartland Conference Tournament before Wilson could get back on the field.
Wilson said it was a hard way to wrap up a solid season of soccer, but she’s eager to get back on the field next season.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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