Michael Oliveira scored more than three dozen goals in the first three years of his Waterville Senior High School varsity soccer career. But after his junior year he decided that when it came to finding the back of the net, his right foot was doing too much of the work.

“Over the summer I worked on vision of field and trying to be in the right place at the right time with my left foot. And it definitely made a difference,” the senior midfielder said.

Up to that point Oliveira, who has played soccer since he was 3 years old, never felt nearly as comfortable going into the left side of the box as he did from the right side. As a senior, every spot on the pitch could be his comfort zone.

“I always had a knack for scoring,” he said. “This year I just stepped up and finished.”

He nearly matched his output over the last three years with 35 goals this season, including five of Waterville’s seven playoff goals. But he was more than a goal scorer for Waterville coach Kerry Serdjenian.

“He’s the most complete player I’ve ever had,” Serdjenian said.

For his efforts, Michael Oliveira is the Morning Sentinel Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Given his proficiency with both feet, Oliveira authored some pretty impressive goals this season. One stands out: A bicycle kick that found the top right corner and tied a game with Medomak Valley in an early-season game.

“It was the best goal I ever saw in high school soccer,” Serdjenian said.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Oliveira, who had come close to duplicating the feet while playing club soccer for GPS Portland Phoenix but never scored on a bicycle kick. “I’ll definitely remember that one for a while.”

Oliveira was “just listening to what the ball was telling me to do,” something he did all season for the Panthers. It might have been tough to hear at times, especially if there was more than one man marking him. But he usually found a way to get the message and then deliver it to the opposition.

“He stays in the play,” Serdjenian said. “Regardless of where the ball is — whether it’s on his foot or not — he’s always making the right run, making the right pass. Even when he was triple-teamed he had the mental toughness to stick to the game plan.”

Waterville finished 11-2-1, survived a 1-0 Class B North preliminary round win over Hermon and then found itself down 3-0 to Oceanside in the first half of its quarterfinal. Oliveira rallied the Panthers to tie it with two goals and an assist, then exulted in Michael Bolduc’s game-winner in overtime.

“The Oceanside win in the playoffs was one of the greatest moments in my high school career,” he said.

Waterville went down fighting to top-seeded Ellsworth, 5-2, in the semifinals. The ending was a disappointment, but Oliveira — who is still deciding where he’ll play collegiately next year (with Bates, Bentley, Stonehill, Merrimack and Roger Williams among the many suitors) — said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“I wouldn’t have wanted a different team my senior year. The chemistry of the team this year was definitely a lot better than last year and it definitely showed,” he said. “With Kerry and Ron Webber, who is a legend in Waterville, I just had a great time playing with those guys.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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