Taiju Oki took a long journey to become goalkeeper of the men’s soccer team. The freshman from Tokyo, Japan is a part of the Waseda University TSA program. While it is not uncommon for students from other countries to participate in varsity athletics at Lawrence, it is quite rare for exchange students to do so.
Before arriving at Lawrence, Oki stated, “I played soccer for ten years in Japan. After I graduated from my high school, I joined a club soccer team at Waseda University, which is just for fun. I joined the club because I couldn’t join Waseda’s varisty soccer team, which is one of the best university soccer team in Japan.”
When Oki learned Lawrence also had a men’s soccer team, he only had to ask one of the team members if he could attend practice before being invited to join the roster.
However, not everything about soccer at Lawrence came easily to Oki. “I always had difficulty communicating with my teammates. As a goalkeeper, it was especially hard to direct defenders in the game and understand what the coaches were saying in English. But, I could communicate better as the season went on and direct defenders after the middle of the season to some extent.”
Despite this communication barrier, Oki still grabbed Viking of the Week after Lawrence’s game against St. Norbert on Oct. 5. “St. Norbert was awarded a penalty kick in the game’s final seconds,” remembered Oki. “Fortunately, I could save the shot and assist our team to victory. The score was 3-2. I will remember this experience forever.” And, just a week later, Oki earned his first collegiate shutout in a nine-save game against Ripon College.
While Oki only got to spend one season with the Lawrence University men’s soccer team since he will be returning to Japan next year, his time with the Vikings will certainly be remembered. “I had a wonderful experience joining the men’s soccer team because of all of my teammates, coaches, and others who were involved. I am proud of LU men’s soccer and I appreciate all of them for their support and kindness,” Oki commented.
Viking Tales is a sports column covering unique stories within LU Athletics.