Phil Anastasia: She's versatile way beyond the soccer field

Goalie Christiana Ogunsami "is the type of player every coach would like to have,"Cherry Hill West coach Marie O'Neil said.
Goalie Christiana Ogunsami "is the type of player every coach would like to have,"Cherry Hill West coach Marie O'Neil said. (DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 23, 2013

Christiana Ogunsami prides herself on balance and versatility. She says the era of the "dumb jock" is over. She's a scholar, an athlete, and a musician.

But a girl has to draw the line somewhere.

"No, no, no," Ogunsami said with a laugh, when asked if affinity for country music was one of the reasons she decided to continue her education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"I'll tolerate it. I don't like it. Maybe I'll become a country appreciator."

Ogunsami has an ear for music. She plays the cello in the Cherry Hill West orchestra. Her favorite pieces include "St. Paul's Suite" - a composition written in 1912 by English composer Gustav Holst - and collaborations with the school band on holiday medleys by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

She is a top student who takes a full slate of advanced placement courses. She plans to major in neuroscience at Vanderbilt, with an eye toward a career in sports medicine.

She probably is best known at Cherry Hill West for her athletic excellence. She's a three-sport standout who plays basketball in the winter and is a weight thrower for the track and field team in the spring.

Soccer is her main sport. If she's not the best goalie in South Jersey, it doesn't take long to call the roll in her class.

"She used to be just a great athlete playing goalie," Eastern coach Jamie McGroarty said. "Now, she's a great goalie. She's improved her technique tenfold in the years we've been playing against her."

Eastern, the No. 2 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, beat Cherry Hill West, 2-1, the other day. The Vikings needed 30 shots to get two past Ogunsami.

She was even better against the Vikings last November, turning away shot after shot in a 2-0 loss, that time against the No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.

"She made saves nobody else would have come close to making," Cherry Hill West coach Marie O'Neil said. "She does things no other goalie can do."

Ogunsami said she has been a goalie for most of her career. She loves the pressure of the position.

"It sounds weird, but I like having the team somewhat on my back," Ogunsami said. "I feel like if I can make saves and help us win, that's the most rewarding thing. I love a challenge in any situation, and this is my challenge."

Ogunsami led the Lions to a 9-10 record last season in the highly competitive Olympic Conference. She was named first-team all-South Jersey by the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association.

"Christiana is the type of player every coach would like to have," said O'Neil, whose team is 1-3 this season. "She has a high understanding of the game and plays with poise and confidence."

The 6-foot Ogunsami tends to tower over teammates, but she's far from aloof. She said she has "2,000" nicknames. "Christiana" is one of them, as her given name is Doyinsola, reflective of her Nigerian heritage.

She sets an example for other athletes in South Jersey because of her broad-based excellence: Soccer is her passion, but she finds the time and energy to commit to her schoolwork as well as her music.

She chose Vanderbilt over West Point and Penn. She loves the Nashville school's academic reputation and its leafy campus as well as its membership in the high-powered Southeastern Conference in sports.

She said she will bring her cello there. She knows she likely won't see another one on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.

But she's keeping an open mind. Someday, she might actually like Taylor Swift.


Contact Phil Anastasia

at panastasia@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @PhilAnastasia. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports,"

at www.inquirer.com/

jerseysidesports

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