PORT ANGELES — She’s got an easy-to-remember nickname, an ability to connect with others and a willingness to see a need and jump in to fill it wholeheartedly.
Oh, and she’s a skilled soccer player, a pure scorer with the ball at her feet as the leading goal-scorer for the Peninsula College women for the second straight season and the entire Northwest Athletic Conference.
Maybe when she hits the age to become eligible for a presidential campaign, the hashtag Pirates women’s soccer coach Kanyon Anderson and his wife Amanda use in text messages to marvel over the athletic and extracurricular feats of sophomore Sam Oliveira — can be reworked.
“My wife has a little hashtag she uses whenever she texts me something about her that makes us shake our heads [in amazement] — #SamOForPresident2020,” Anderson said.
“It’s really crazy what she’s done. When I recruited her I couldn’t believe some of the things I heard about her. She’s a fantastic person. I think she was going into physical therapy [after college soccer] but we’ve been telling her that her real gift is to connect with people and to do things for people.”
Back in high school in Porterville, Calif., Oliveira formed a club basketball program for less fortunate athletes, putting on benefits to offset costs for players.
“Some can’t really afford it, others can’t afford going to tournaments — parents don’t have the gas money,” Oliveira said. “We did a tri-tip [beef dinner] fundraiser and made enough money for jerseys, sweatshirts, warmups and to keep the tournament fees down.”
Anderson marvels at the effort involved.
“Sam-O started a youth basketball team for underprivileged youth and did all the fundraising so that all of their tournament fees and equipment would be paid for and she did that as a 17-year old. If an adult did that we would be like, ‘Wow.’ But For a 17-year old?”
It’s all about making her presence felt, Oliveira said.
“I think anywhere I end up, wherever my next destination is, I want to make sure I make an impact somewhere not just in the soccer program but in life,” Oliveira said. “Soccer is so much more than just a game, there’s so much more to it. Job scenarios, life situations — if things aren’t working out are you just going to give up and be done or are you going to keep pushing and figuring out a way. In the soccer world — if someone is man marking me how am I going to figure out how to score a goal or to find someone for an assist. Little things like that.”
Not every young adult shows Oliveira’s level of maturity.
But not every young adult has had to deal with as much adversity.
Oliveira said she plays the game to honor her late father, Joe.
“My dad passed in a car accident five days before Christmas when I was a sophomore in high school,” Oliveira said. “He coached me, but I was just always with him. It’s hard some days, and I don’t think it will ever get easier, but that’s who I play for and I know that even though he physically can’t be here, he will always be with me. Just keep pushing and striving because I am doing this for my family — no matter where I am.”
The beginning of her relationship with Anderson got off to a rocky start.
“I met Kanyon my senior year of high school and tore my ACL [knee ligament] in front of him,” Last year was my first season back after the ACL and [attending Peninsula] been the best decision of my life. I’ve been able to find myself and get better as a player. To grow and have that support and meeting great people from all over the place.”
Oliveira provides for teammates
Oliveira is the NWAC’s leading goal scorer with 20 goals this season, along with three assists. She sits third all-time on the list of Peninsula women’s career goal scorers with 41, two back of Sydney Warren (2016-2017) and four behind Bri Afoa (2012-2013).
She’s a threat to score from all over the field, and possesses a free kick strike that crosses up opposing goalkeepers and finds the net with regularity on set pieces.
She’s respected by teammates — her competitiveness frequently drawing shouts of “Sam O” from the Pirates bench during contests.
Oliveira put on a summertime five-on-five youth soccer tournament to raise funds for team shoes for her and the squad.
“I wanted to get team shoes, but I didn’t want to ask the school for more money because they already provide so much for us,” Oliveira said. “We took those funds and bought team shoes and it just makes us look better. We are an elite program and you always want to grow. We travel in those, you can look at those and say we all worked hard for it.”
Oliveira is an academic achiever in the classroom and she also serves on the school’s Associated Student Council as vice president.
“What’s really cool about this school is it’s size,” Oliveira said. “How many colleges do you get to talk to the school president? That’s what’s super cool. [Dr. Luke Robins] comes out, supports us and talks to us. Having Rick [Ross] and Jeremiah [Johnson] as our ADs, they are always wanting the best for the school, always wanting to make it better. With the coaching staff you know you have [Kanyon’s] support, his family’s support, the rest of the coaching staff and all the faculty here.”
“Everything happens for a reason and I think I was just meant to be here. And I’m thankful for it.”
As for the future, Oliveira is weighing her athletic and academic options. But it’s apparent from her time at Peninsula that she has the ability to make her next destination a better, more connected place.
“I have a couple of offers — Cal State East Bay is a big one,” Oliveira said. “They have a great coaching staff and are definitely an option.
“It may take a little time [to make a decision]. Everything has kind of been last minute, I was the last one to sign and come here. I plan to let life take its course and hopefully make an impact wherever I end up.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]