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OUTSTANDING OCEANO Nelson Oceano has developed into one of the top players in the Southern Conference by ROB KNOX.

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Nelson Oceano has been playing soccer most of his life.

“My dad played soccer semi-professionally and is a big supporter of the game so as soon as I was able to walk, I started kicking a soccer ball,” Oceano said. “Soccer is a big part of my life and it comes so naturally that it's hard to describe the reason why.”

The Berlin, Germany native had a blast in 2019 on the pitch.

His sterling performances earned him All-Southern Conference (SoCon) Second Team selection last season as he helped the Spartans win the regular-season conference championship.

“But if I could pick one thing that makes soccer so special to me it would be the fact that it brings people together from all sorts of places and no matter where you are from, you are part of a common goal,” Oceano said.

The common goal this season for Oceano and his UNCG teammates is winning the conference tournament title and earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans pandemic-delayed season will begin in the spring. The Spartans have been working hard in the renovated Bodford Speed, Strength & Conditioning season to prepare for the quality competition they will face in a few months.

The unusual pause in matches has allowed the Spartans to bond more. They also celebrated recently when they received their championship rings during a brief ceremony in late October.

“The best part of playing soccer at UNCG is the feeling of being part of something bigger and more meaningful,” Oceano said. “I never thought a ring can feel that rewarding. It makes me want to get more. Every player at UNCG paves the way for the next, and we get to decide which direction the road is going. On top of that, we have an incredible support system that believes in us and is helping us to be successful players and people.”

It’s one of many reasons why Oceano embraces his role as one of the team captains this season. He is helping to lead his teammates during this unusual semester of socially distanced workouts, virtual classes, and lots of Zoom calls.

“Being a captain means being a leader on and off the field,” Oceano said. “It is a position that demands responsibility and reliability. I'm most proud of how everyone on the team is dealing with the difficult times that this pandemic brought us. It requires a lot of adaptability to new situations and demands us to sacrifice parts of our social lives to be able to continue playing soccer. The best part of being a leader is to see others succeed.”

His play on the field demonstrates that as well. Oceano tied for the team lead with six assists, which was fourth in the SoCon. He had a two-assist performance in a shutout victory over Mercer last season.

Off the field, Oceano is an interior architecture major and a top chef.

“I love to cook,” Oceano said. “There's rarely anything that gets me more excited than making food. I try new things to cook every day which I probably should start writing down because I tend to forget half of the good stuff that I made.”

The perfect combination of a strong soccer program and a nationally-renowned architecture school created plenty of positive vibes for Oceano, who was instantly attracted to UNCG.

“I applied to an agency called Sports Scholarships who are arranging and helping foreign athletes to get into American colleges,” Oceano said. “After sending in video footage and attending a national showcase hosted in Germany, I received a handful of offers from colleges all over the States from Hawaii to New York.

“A few months into talking to several coaches and thinking about my academic future, UNCG reached out and immediately had my attention. I instantly had a good feeling. After talking to the head coach at the time, my interest was amplified by the great culture and uplifting atmosphere at UNCG. I committed in summer 2017 and the rest is history.”

Of course, 2020 has been a historically challenging year for everybody. In addition to the global pandemic, there’s been the tsunami of the emotionally-charged election process and social unrest colliding.

Oceano has displayed a wealth of strength, wisdom, power, and leadership skills by listening to his teammates and participating in uncomfortable discussions.

“It has been a year with a lot of mixed emotions that were amplified by disturbing events that made it clear how much we have to work on in terms of social justice, the elimination of systematic racism and discrimination towards minorities to make this world a better life for everyone,” Oceano said. “Among a handful of lessons, I think patience is the one that stands out the most.

“The only constant in life is change. The world is an ever-evolving mechanism that won't stop to develop and progress. However, I'm confident that we as humans can agree on a common truth that faces the problems of our time. That gives me hope.” UNCG

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Rob Knox
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