The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 21, 2014

Harvath, ODP look to make way into record books

FAIRMONT — History is in the making for the West Virginia 1997 Olympic Development Program boys’ soccer team this weekend.

The team is the first boys’ program to advance out of group play, which was held two weeks ago in New Jersey, and just the second team to advance to regional after the 1996 girls’ ODP team did it in 2011. And with a win today, the team will become the only West Virginia ODP team to advance into the regional finals.

If they make history today with a win over Vermont in Delaware at 10 a.m., East Fairmont’s Colin Harvath will have his name in the record books.

The rising junior, along with two others from the surrounding area, is part of the 1997 (year of birth) ODP team, and he knows just how important this weekend’s tournament is to not only his team but to the state.

“That's what you want,” Harvath said of a chance to advance to the national tournament with two wins this weekend. “If you're on the region team that wins, those are the kids that get chances to play for a national team.”

The Olympic Development Program is full of talented soccer players throughout the country, and to make a name for yourself would be a huge accomplishment in the eyes of college coaches and even coaches of various national teams from all over.

But Harvath has accepted the challenge.

“It’s a lot faster pace when you play with these boys because they're a lot more technically sound than some of the kids on high school teams,” Harvath said. “But I can bring that back, and it can help us play faster and play better (next high school season).

“I’ve been playing this and some other travel soccer, too. It’s been busy, but it’s been good to work on my skills.”

For Harvath, whose East Fairmont team lost by just one goal in the state championship a season ago, anything he can do to get better will be worth his time, he said.

With a lot of planning, things fall into place with a busy schedule between balancing soccer workouts, football workouts, a high school life and a girlfriend. But his teammates at East Fairmont understand that one of their top players is spending his summer working hard rather than just loafing on the couch.

“I think my soccer buddies are OK with it because they know that I’m out there getting better,” Harvath said before adding a more definitive answer. “No, I know they’re OK with it.”

Playing travel soccer with the state’s top players will not only help Harvath in terms of improving upon his own game, but he’ll be able to see how the rest of the state is improving as well. Including players from PikeView, which beat out East Fairmont for the top spot in the state last fall.

“It’s actually funny because I remember a few of the kids,” Harvath said. “The first day I noticed that there was kid from PikeView. We talked, and we’re friends now. We talked about the game and learned from each other.”

To top it off, the head coach of the 1997 ODP team is a collegiate coach from the Division I ranks, Bob Gray, who serves as Marshall University’s head coach.

To be able to play in front of a college coach day in and day out provides confidence as well as new skills for Harvath and the other players.

“It’s awesome. It’s hard, too, though, because he expects a lot out of you,” he said. “He almost wants you to play like you're one of his college athletes.”

The experience is invaluable to a player like Harvath who has two high school seasons remaining.

“It’s a pretty good experience. There’s good players that come all from the state,” Harvath explained. “It helps challenge me, and I have to work a lot harder to prove myself.”

While the main reason for playing is to improve, winning a few games is an added bonus. If Harvath and the rest of the 1997 team can pull it off this weekend, that bonus will be a hefty one.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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