WHEELERSBURG — Much like his goals in his Wheelersburg High School soccer matches, Aaron Jolly’s interest in Mount Vernon Nazarene University — and the school’s reciprocation — indeed was early and often.
Hence, Jolly and the Cougars men’s program made the potentially stressful recruiting process rather swift, short and seamless — and arguably the most decorated boys soccer player in Pirate history has his collegiate home.
That’s because Jolly, in a recent signing ceremony, officially announced his intention to play college soccer for MVNU —a member of the NAIA and CrossRoads League located in Mount Vernon.
Jolly was flanked at his signing by his parents Scott and Maria Jolly, Wheelersburg High School boys soccer head coach Jon Estep, Mount Vernon Nazarene men’s soccer coach Zach Ganzberg, and several of his Pirates teammates and friends.
He also joins his twin sister Lauren in committing to play at the collegiate level, as Lauren Jolly officially inked the same afternoon with the University of Rio Grande to play volleyball and run track and field.
In discussing his selection of MVNU, Jolly said the school was “an overall great fit from the start”.
“They really started the process early, and Mount Vernon really stood out because they sounded like they wanted me to be a part of their program. That was just completely different than what many other schools had to offer. When it came down to it, it was the fact they offered me a good amount and they really wanted me,” he said.
Ganzberg made the long drive down from Mount Vernon to Jolly’s signing, explaining that the process of landing the standout striker was two years in the making.
From Ganzberg’s viewpoint, not landing Jolly into the fold —onto the Cougar pitch — would have been a bad misfiring.
“We met Aaron two years ago when he and his family came to visit the campus. I didn’t know a lot about him at the time, but there was a really good connection with his family. We had very comfortable and smooth conversations, and that was just the initial starting point. Then when I watched his film following that visit, I was just blown away. I wanted to keep an eye on his career. He was a smaller player a couple of years ago, but we’ve watched him develop physically into the player he is now,” said the coach. “All along, all the boxes kept getting checked off, capped off by an incredible senior season. When you think about it, he’s really hard to miss.”
Especially when you’ve scored as many goals as Jolly did in four seasons at Wheelersburg.
The speedy Jolly jumped from second-team all-state as a sophomore to the Division III Southeast District Player of the Year the past two —and automatic first-team all-Ohio honors as a result.
Jolly also graduates as Wheelersburg’s all-time goal-scoring leader, racking up 117 markers over his impressive four years.
He had 48 of them as a senior, and is the second Pirate in school history to twice be named Southern Ohio Conference Division II and Southeast District (Division III) Player of the Year —while also being the second player in program history to be named all-Ohio three times.
He is the third Wheelersburg player to be bestowed first-team all-Ohio.
And, this season, Jolly said the state award meant the most —because it came within the team concept of the Pirates’ historic 21-1-0 season, which culminated with the program’s first-ever regional championship.
That’s right, Wheelersburg went to the state semifinals for the first time ever — its only loss all year coming at the hands, or feet, of the Division III state champion Cincinnati Mariemont.
“Personally, being an all-Ohioan is more than I could ask for. It’s one thing that most high school athletes strive for, and to achieve it in back-to-back years is something I am proud of,” said Jolly. “Secondly, our run to state was a great opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the Wheelersburg program. Hopefully this season helped to kick-start a longer run of winning districts, regionals, etc. for years to come. I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough for supporting me, and I will always look back on my time with Wheelersburg.”
Jolly also ended his Pirate playing days with 50 career assists, as he owns not only the most goals for a career, but he is tied for the most goals scored in a single Wheelersburg match.
Against South Webster this season, Jolly scored a goal eight seconds into the contest —thus tying the record for the fastest goal scored.
His top-10 school records list is lengthy, but he ranks second thru fifth in nine other categories —whether for assists or goals.
“As far as Aaron is concerned, he leaves this program as the most decorated soccer player in program history. But his mark he leaves on this program is bigger than that,” said Estep. “His passion, his love for his teammates, work ethic, motivation, positivity and character, both on and off the field, have helped us set new standards for our program moving forward. Aaron is a goal-driven person and I know he has set goals to better himself before heading to Mount Vernon in order to set himself up for success. He has a great supporting cast surrounding him that loves him, pushes him, and I have no doubt he will achieve success at the next level. He was a leader in more ways than he can imagine.”
As for one of those ways, Jolly now begins the transition from forward at Wheelersburg to center midfield for MVNU.
“I’ll be getting more touches on the ball instead of scoring as many goals as I did in high school. That’s what they really need right now, and they just figured I would be a good match for that role,” he said. “I’m hopefully willing to step into that.”
Jolly said “the speed of play will be completely different, but you have to be comfortable with the ball.”
“College is quicker, definitely more physical, and I definitely have to adjust to that,” he said.
Jolly does remain undecided upon a major, but said he has considered “Engineering.”
That decision, of course, comes in due time — but Jolly’s jump to MVNU is something he’s looking forward to.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge, but I am excited for something different and new,” he said. “I’ll enjoy it, and it will be a good experience for me.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved