Friday, October 18, 2013

Successful collegiate career nears end for Oliver Gore at Rocky Mountain College

Gore has enjoyed his time as a Battlin' Bear, but what lies ahead? | Photos: Gerald Barnhart 

As a striker for an NAIA program at a school featuring just over one thousand students in Montana, national media attention - not to mention professional scouting - does not exactly beckon. For Rocky Mountain College's Oliver Gore, however, that may not matter as his senior season in the Frontier Conference nears an end and he will be able to explore options himself.

This week the Englishman was selected by INWsoccernews as part of it's Best XI for the third time this season and eighth over the past two years after he tallied a goal and an assist over the weekend. His 17th goal of the year was number 63 of his career at RMC.

RMC coach Richard Duffy

"He is by far the best player we've had in the history of the program," Battlin' Bears head coach Richard Duffy told INWsoccernews when RMC visited Spokane for the Red Lion Challenge, where he scored seven goals - five in one game - and tallied two assists in a pair of big victories. "

"He was an MVP nominee for the PDL, which is the best 1,200 players in the country at any level so we are pretty lucky to have a player like that. And no matter who he is playing against he shows up to play; obviously, five goals in a game is a pretty good achievement for anyone. He'll be sorely missed when he graduates this year."  

That stint in the USL Premier Development League may prove to have been the starting point for any prospects in regards to playing in the United States after graduation. Gore spent the summer playing for Real Colorado and made an impressive showing during his first campaign in the league, guiding the Foxes to a 9-3-2 record with 15 goals, which tied for second in the league, and 34 points (tie for third).

"That season went really well. I played with and against some really good players and it was a different environment," Gore said of his time with the Foxes. "It was kind of a more professional setting, which is what I needed. I got everything I wanted to gain out of the summer, so it was really good, really good fun."

His efforts earned him not only All-Conference honors but the voting within the conference was enough to land him on the three-player list of finalists for the league's Most Valuable Player honor, a surprise to the 6-foot-2 striker. That's not a bad litmus test for someone that has been playing in the relative obscurity of the NAIA.    

"If you would have asked me at the start of the year I wouldn't have expected it, but the year went really well," he said of his award-winning PDL campaign. "I scored a good amount of goals and my teammates were great. I just did the easy thing, just tapping the ball in; but I was definitely happy with the MVP nomination."

Having played through the summer, Gore came into the college season on form and got off to a hot start that included the seven-goal performance at the Red Lion Challenge.

"In previous years I've just worked in the summer and I had to do my own fitness sort of thing. I would come in good shape, but this year I was match fit; been playing all summer. Playing at altitude, I was probably in the best shape of my life; and mentally, it was my last year so I want to make it count.

"It is my last year, so I wanted to make sure the team was up for it; we've got a good group of lads in and we've got the start that we wanted - we want to just keep it going," Gore said of his final year for the Battlin' Bears, who are 10-2-1 this season and appear headed toward the postseason again.

According to his coach though, it isn't just his physical tools and scoring touch that makes Gore the best player to have come through the program.

"Leadership. One of his main strengths is he works hard defensively, and I think he is able to create a lot of goals because of it," Duffy said. "I think what he does is allow the players to work off of what he's done, so if he is working hard the rest of the team works hard."

A pretty good find considering Duffy brought him to Montana virtually sight unseen.

"Recruiting internationally is always a gamble – sometimes you get lucky and get a player of Olly’s caliber. I recruited Olly based on watching a five-minute highlight reel that actually was not that impressive – I had recruited another English striker that decided not to come so therefore I decided to take a risk on Olly. Turned out to be one of the best coaching decisions of my career."

It was also a good decision for Gore, who spent previous summers enjoying the outdoor recreational opportunities Big Sky country provides and working for a local youth soccer club.

"I went through an agency called FirstPoint USA and coach Duffy picked me up from there - invited me to come play for Rocky, and I said yes. The rest is history I guess," he said with a laugh. "[Playing at RMC] is loads of fun. Great coaches; met some great friends and I am enjoying soccer, so it's very good."

Now another decision awaits Gore in the next few months. Where will he continue his playing career; in the United States or back in England or abroad?

"I am looking to play out here when I am done so I've just got to focus on the season first and get this done," he said at the Red Lion Challenge. "Then I can start crossing that bridge when I get to it, [pausing for a slight chuckle] but I definitely want to stay and try and play."