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CAMPUS ANGLE

Needham’s Ouligian rises to the occasion for Colgate soccer

Colgate University
Needham’s Aram Ouligian, left, in action for Colgate on the soccer pitch.

Colgate University
Aram Ouligian

Colgate University junior defender Aram Ouligian scored the biggest goal on the biggest stage of his soccer career Nov. 19. His conversion of a corner kick service with under three minutes to play against the 13th-ranked University of Michigan gave Colgate a 3-2 upset victory in the NCAA Tournament.

Colgate, 12-10-1 and winners of seven straight, will play at 4th-ranked Louisville Nov. 26 in the Division 1 quarterfinals.

A first team All-Patriot League selection, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Ouligian leads the team with eight goals and has started every game since his freshman season. He also scored crucial goals in the last two regular-season games against Navy and Boston University to help keep his team in the playoff picture.

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Colgate swept three opponents in its league tournament, then won the program’s first NCAA game, a 2-0 victory in the opening round at the University of Massachusetts.

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“Aram has been a strong aerial defender since he arrived,’’ said Colgate head coach Erik Ronning of the 20-year-old economics major, “but we also send him forward on all set plays. During our run through the NCAAs, he has been inspiring and has emerged into a top-level player.’’

His teammates include sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Harris of Brookline (Rivers School), who has posted five late-season shutouts; junior forward Steve DeLeo (Acton-Boxborough), who scored the game-winner in OT when Colgate topped Loyola, 3-2, in the league semi-finals; and junior midfielder Ryan Bellavance of Medfield (Rivers), who scored his team’s first goal against Michigan set up by Ouiligian.

Under legendary Needham High head coach Don Brock, now retired, Ouligian starred on two state championship teams. He was Bay State Conference MVP and an All-American his senior year.

Q. What were your emotions after coming back from a 2-0 deficit against Big Ten champ Michigan?

A. To do this for our seniors and this team is just amazing. Words can’t describe it. To win in that fashion is so exciting.

Q. You played in the NCAAs a year ago, a 4-2 loss at UCLA. How has that experience helped you?

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A. Playing in a setting like that was eye-opening. So against UMass and then Michigan, we felt we had been there before, playing a favored team on the road in the NCAAs.

Q. Winning the state title with Needham in 2014 was an emotional ride without coach Brock. What made that so?

A. Coach had suffered a stroke during our South Sectional semifinal win and was taken to the hospital, and it was a huge motivator for going out with a bang. I’m still in touch with him, and thankfully, he’s doing well.

Q. You played varsity basketball in high school and still play intramural basketball at Colgate. Does it help you in soccer?

A. Yes. It has a cross training aspect, plus all the leaping and jumping involved and the team values that make you a close-knit group

Q. When did you first kick a soccer ball in competition?

A. My first serious introduction was at age 8 with the Boston Bolts club team coached by Francis Okaroh. He was my coach through age 18. He’s an assistant coach at BU, so it’s fun when we play them.

Q. How has your height made you a more effective player?

A. It’s one of my best attributes. It’s elevated my game and enabled me to win aerial battles for the ball.

Q. How have you dealt with the pressure of the post-season?

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A. It seems we play our best when our backs are against the wall. I just tried to fulfill my role to the best of my ability and to stay relaxed. I wear noise-cancelling headphones before a game, and that helped.

Q. How have you enhanced your education?

A. Two summers ago, I worked for the New England Patriots as a football operations intern, and last summer I worked in the finance department of a health care company in Bedford. I’m also a member of the Colgate Finance Club, where I can hear about the experiences of alumni in that field.

Q. Is there a food you can’t do without?

A. I eat enormous amounts of peanut butter and always have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before a game. It’s part nutrition and part superstition.

Q. What has been your parents’ and grandfather’s influence?

A. My parents were both high school athletes. My dad, Chuck, got me into every sport and my mom, Gail, has always been supportive. My grandfather, Gus, who lives in Dedham is in his 80s, drives up to Colgate for our games.

MARVIN PAVE

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com