Collier, a forward, and Valentic-Holden, a defender, share more than just their country of origin, though. They’re both freshman originally from New Zealand and both have made a significant impact in the impressive start that the Loyola men’s soccer team has had this season.
Collier is one of three players who have scored this season and is a driving force on the offense. Valentic-Holden is a part of the defense that has only allowed one goal in four games.
Loyola men’s soccer’s connection to New Zealand originates from Head Coach Neil Jones. Like Collier and Valentic-Holden, Coach Jones was born in New Zealand. He came to the United States to play soccer at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“I know some people at the Ole Academy, located in Wellington, [New Zealand],” Jones said. “I contacted them and they put me on to both Jordan and Elliot.”
The Ole Football Club in New Zealand, to which Collier and Valentic-Holden both belonged, was created by American soccer players in 1998. The club has a long history of sending New Zealand soccer players over to the U.S. for college.
“They brought [Jones] over when I was actually 15. I heard from them that he liked how I played at the time,” Valentic-Holden said about his recruiting process. “When it came to contacting schools, I called [Jones] when he was at Northwestern. He began recruiting me from there, but when he got a job here, he sent me an email about Loyola and that’s how I started looking here.”
Collier and Valentic-Holden first arrived at Loyola last spring and were able to begin taking classes and participate in spring exhibition games for the Ramblers.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” Collier, a 19-year-old biology major, said of his college soccer experience in the U.S. “It’s great to go to the next level, compared to back home. Got to be fitter and faster and stronger over here, and that’s only going to benefit me in the long run.”
Collier and Valentic-Holden have contributed greatly to the men’s soccer team since their arrival on campus, and have both gotten significant playing time in their freshman campaigns.
“[Valentic-Holden] is a very hard-working outside defender,” Jones said. “He needs to continue to adjust to the pace of the American game, but he is a steady right back that likes to provide service to our attack. [Collier] is a very skillful attacking player that has a very high soccer IQ.”
Besides soccer, both of the New Zealanders have had to make some adjustments while living in the U.S.
“Food would be the biggest culture shock,” 19-year-old Valentic-Holden said. “I had never been in a dining hall in high school or anything like that. So the quality of food, I wasn’t expecting it or used to it.”
Although children in the U.S. are usually taught to look both ways before crossing the street, Collier had to learn this after a terrifying experience his first week in the country.
“Within the first week I was going across the road and looked the wrong way and almost got hit by a car because the cars were on the wrong side of the road,” Collier said. “Now I always have to look both ways when going across the street to make sure I am looking the right way.”
Collier and Valentic-Holden are just the beginning. Jones said he will continue to recruit athletes from New Zealand.
“The New Zealand kids bring a different energy to the team and the program. They have a funny accent, and they have funny things to say. New Zealanders are known for having a good sense of humor, so aside from Jordan and Elliot being great soccer players and students, they bring a different dynamic to our locker room that will help our team grow and get to the next level.”