Feature Article on Men's Tennis Senior Albert Ochagavia
Jan. 24, 2013
In his three and a half years at Old Dominion, Albert Ochagavia has had good memories, like when he had a tremendous sophomore season, and the not so good, like when he struggled through an injury riddled junior campaign. Through it all, Ochagavia has taken a positive outlook on his journey and is ready to start his senior season and make the most of it.
A native of Llieda, Spain, Ochagavia came to Old Dominion in the spring of 2010 and did not have a memorable first semester.
"It was terrible. I came here in the spring, right before the season started and I was playing right away. Because of some classes, I could not practice with the team. I was able to get private workouts, but it kept me away from the team so I wasn't involved as much," Ochagavia said. I came here to be an engineer, but since I came so late I couldn't pick my classes so I was taking freshman classes I didn't like."
Ochagavia could have gone back to Spain to go to school to be an engineer, but that would have meant the end of his tennis career.
"My tennis was not better and I was homesick. I started to think it was a bad decision to come here," Ochagavia added. "When I decided to come to Old Dominion it was to play tennis and I wanted to continue that. I knew I could have went to the school I wanted to in Spain, but then tennis was over for me."
Despite the first taste of college not going as he planned, Ochagavia decided to give it another chance.
"I gave it a shot, after the first semester I took a chance and stayed, and I thank God I did."
As with most students coming from a foreign country, there is a language barrier.
"I remember being in chemistry class listening to lectures, not being able to ask questions, all I could do was just copy notes, but when you don't have an option, you just do it. I didn't have a choice," Ochagavia noted. "One thing that helped me was I visited my cousin in Dublin for a month over the summer and that was important."
One thing that also helped him was the diversity of the players on the tennis team. On the current team Monarch tennis team, 10 players reside from eight different countries, including the United State, Spain, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, Croatia, Venezuela and the Netherlands. Only Spain and the United States have more than one players, and they have just two apiece. "I think its great," Ochagavia said about the various cultures on the team. "So many different cultures, it helps because we've all been through this so we all help each other.
During the fall of his sophomore season, something lit a fire into Ochagavia that helped him become the player he is today. One of the coaches at the time went on a verbal tirade in front of the team that Ochagavia was not used to. It had an effect on him nonetheless, motivating him ever since.
"I decided at that point I was going to do it for me. That made me get going and I had a very good year, stayed healthy and it paid off in the end," Ochagavia said. "From then on I've been a new person. That made be grow up fast."
Ochagavia had an outstanding year on the court as a sophomore earning All-CAA honors while going 16-8 at No. 4 singles. He also started to figure things out in the classroom.
"I started liking it more. It helps me a lot that the system they are using here in engineering is very similar to Spain," Ochagavia said. "Most of my classes, you walk in, take three tests and that's it. You have your grade and your done. You do things by yourself and don't expect anyone to hold your hand."
Leading up to the 2011 season, Piric was named the head coach of the men's tennis team. One of the first things he did was to call each of the current members of the team to talk to them and get to them.
"The thing that struck me about Albert was the excitement that he had to get back to work. The commitment to tennis and school, over though the phone I could tell he was eager to get back to work," Piric said. "He works his tail off on the court and the classroom and he's a key staple guy for us."
Everything had seemingly fallen into place for the Spaniard heading into his junior season. He started the season at No. 2 singles and quickly was moved up to the No. 1 singles spot. Then, the injury struck.
"You start thinking, I worked so hard, and over something I have no control of, it's gone. I was sad, I just wanted to play, to battle for ODU," Ochagavia admitted. "I had a big change at that time because of Aljosa (current ODU Head Coach). It wasn't about me anymore, it was about the team. It was about doing something much bigger than myself, to win for this team and for ODU."
Ochagavia tried to come back after sitting out two matches but he reagrivated the injury and had to miss several more matches, even further frustrating Ochagavia.
"I wanted to go back to the court so fast and it wasn't a good decision," Ochagavia said. "I would do things differently now, I was young and just wanted to play."
Even though he was unable to help the team on the court, Piric noticed that Ochagavia still had a profound effect on the team.
"It was difficult for him. When you put so much work into something you want to go out there and help your team. He was disappointed but it was a great learning experience," Piric said. "One thing he continued was that he was still a leader, he was the loudest cheering on the guys, still coming to practice."
Ochagavia and the Monarchs now begin their second season with Piric as their head coach. Piric's passion and excitement transfers over to his team.
"His passion just gets you going, his willingness to do something great for the school is awesome," Ochagavia said. "He's never down, it's unbelievable. He knows its not about one day but to keep it up over time."
"I just try to help as much as I can. We have four freshmen, which does make it hard. For them everything is new, but you got to help that out as much as you can," Ochagavia added. "But like Coach Brinkman says, leadership comes from everybody. We do this as a team and everybody is there."
Ochagavia is ready for his senior campaign to begin and get last season behind him. He has goals for the season, some he doesn't want to let everyone in on, but the biggest one is fairly simple, but meaningful.
"Wherever the coaches put me in the lineup, I want to get the point," Ochagavia said. "It doesn't matter where I play, wherever I can help the most and get that point for the team."
Piric believes Ochagavia is the glue to the team and has contributed more to the team than just on the court. However, Piric believes Ochagavia can have a great season, the senior needs to believe it.
"The biggest thing for him is to understand how good he is. If he accepts that, he's going to be very successful for us," Piric said.