The Cougars men’s soccer team started off the season with four consecutive double overtime games, which ended in either ties or losses. After picking it up at the start of PacWest conference play, they turned it around as a team.
The team is fairly young with 11 new players coming in this season, but with senior Tim Ogunniyi taking on a new position as a striker/forward, the team has finally found its rhythm.
Head coach David Blomquist expressed how much the team needs each other and is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
That includes Ogunniyi’s adaptability and play-making abilities, which have contributed to the team’s success.
“When the whistle blows to start the game, it’s everyone playing.” Blomquist said. “We want the players to make the best decision and put themselves in the best spot.”
After a rough start to the season between injuries and the team’s youth, the Cougars needed more of a presence up top. Ogunniyi provided that by holding the ball up and scoring. However, the adjustment wasn’t as easy as it seemed.
Ogunniyi was born and raised in Bristol, England. He played soccer at St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple School in high school. After, he played in junior college for a year before transferring to play at the Wales Institute. He continued to go to school, and with encouragements to get his masters, he decided to further his schooling while playing soccer.
Ogunniyi had a few friends who came to play soccer in California, so he decided that he would find a way to come to the states and play again.
“I reached out to a lot of coaches, but they wanted videos and I didn’t have that. I only had my résumé, so luckily the coach here saw my email and said, ‘If you can fly over we’ll have a look at you,’ and a lot of other clubs said the same thing,” Ogunniyi said.
Ogunniyi came to California with the intention of visiting APU, Cal Baptist, Cal State Los Angeles, San Francisco University and Humboldt State.
Before his arrival, Ogunniyi turned to God in search of guidance for his future.
“I said one prayer before I left England: ‘Lord, I just want to know where you want me to go, let me feel your presence when I get to the place,’ and APU was the first place I came to. I felt this sort of God’s presence telling me this is the place, and before coach offered me any scholarship, I just said ‘I’m coming here,’” Ogunniyi said.
When he visited the other schools, he told their coaches almost immediately that he had already chosen APU and didn’t want to waste their time.
Once the APU coaches contacted Ogunniyi letting him know they had accepted him onto the team, he knew his long journey was what God had planned.
“I firmly believe God’s plan is the best plan. God brought me here. He has a plan for me.” Ogunniyi said.
This was the start of a difficult but successful journey. Coming from another country was just one of the many challenges that Ogunniyi faced.
“It’s a big change. The weather is the start. I can’t tell you when was the last time I played in this heat. I struggle a lot,” Ogunniyi said. “We get a lot of rain back home. It rains about 150 days a year, so I’m used to playing with gloves and double socks, and out here it’s so hot.”
Not only was the weather a factor, but Ogunniyi has also had to handle switching positions. He was originally a central defender, but due to injuries, he became a starting striker.
Blomquist explained they now play Ogunniyi as the “lone striker.”
“Tim holds the ball well for us up top, he gets on the end of crosses with his size and strength,” Blomquist said.
The position change has been effective for both the team and Ogunniyi. On Oct. 8, Ogunniyi recorded a four goal performance against the Academy of Art.
He came only one goal shy of tying both the school record and PacWest record for most goals scored in a game, and became the fifth player in PacWest history to score four goals in a game.
As a striker, he has more opportunities to score, but with those opportunities comes a target on his back when playing other teams. His size also contributes to referees being prone to call fouls against him. Moving forward, Ogunniyi’s composure will be tested with his driven personality.
“On the field he is very passionate and talkative. Off the field he shows good leadership qualities, guiding the younger players and looking after them,” sophomore forward Callum Wallace said.
Ogunniyi’s success comes from his character just as much as his ability.
“He’s determined, driven and he’s not afraid to try to put the team on his back,” Blomquist said. “He has a magnetic personality and draws people to him. He’s a natural leader, so I think whatever he goes on to do, he will be successful.”
The team has fought back to stay competitive and is currently 6-5-3. With only three more games remaining in the season, they are seeking a strong finish. The Cougars are currently in Hawaii for four consecutive games.
They will play their next game at Hawaii Pacific on Oct. 27 and then at Chaminade on Oct. 29 before their season finale at home on Nov. 4 against Point Loma.