Many young athletes dream of playing at a higher level with their friends –– backyard floodlights painting a backdrop that make a pickup game feel like a professional contest.
Such dreams became a reality for four Ohio State men’s soccer players from Dublin, Ohio.
Jack Holland, Matt and Luke Kiley and Brennon Davis grew up playing soccer together, supporting one another’s desires to be Buckeyes.
“Being from Dublin and having that Ohio State influence as a kid made this decision easy,” senior midfielder Holland said. “To go through this with them is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The Dublin squad hung out often after school. They also all played for the Blast FC Soccer Academy — a premier soccer club for boys and girls located in Columbus, Ohio — from ages 6 to 16. They then played for Ohio Premier Soccer Club, a nonprofit that prepares athletes for collegiate soccer careers.
Redshirt sophomore defender Matt Kiley, sophomore forward Luke Kiley and senior midfielder Holland played two years together for Dublin Coffman High School.
There, Luke Kiley set the school’s all-time record with 84 goals and was named Mr. Soccer Ohio as a senior. Two seasons earlier, Holland was named first team All-State, and Matt Kiley received second team honors the following year.
While Holland and the Kiley brothers were at Coffman, senior goalkeeper Davis played for Dublin Jerome High School.
“We first knew each other in kindergarten and have been friends ever since. Soccer has helped us maintain a relationship,” Davis said.
This year’s Buckeye team saw nine new additions from a season ago, but regardless of the new faces, the relationship among the Dublin players helped in bring the roster closer together off the bat.
“You can just see that family-tight feel to those guys, and it helps the locker room. It brings everyone else in, which is really neat,” head coach Brian Maisonneuve said.
One new addition was Luke Kiley, who spent his first season of college soccer at Georgetown in 2018 before transferring to Ohio State to reunite with his brother and former teammates.
He said his ties to several Buckeyes assisted his transition to the program.
“They helped me out a ton, talking me up and getting me on campus and stuff,” Luke Kiley said.
They have also influenced other central Ohio players to stay local, such as freshman midfielder Brayden Durbin — from Pickerington, Ohio — who also played for Ohio Premier.
“We were the first class, Jack and I, to graduate through OP,” Davis said. “It’s really cool following Ohio Premier and having an influence on guys and helping them come to Ohio State.”
Six current Buckeyes, including freshman defender Owen Sullivan of Dublin, Ohio, played for Ohio Premier.
For Holland and Davis, the dream of playing at Ohio State with their Dublin comrades has come to an end, as the Buckeyes were ousted from the Big Ten Tournament by top-seed Indiana Sunday.
Holland’s final season was his best, his 18 points and eight assists leading the team. As an offensive playmaker, he’ll pass the torch to Luke Kiley, as he did in high school. Kiley scored two points in his first year in the program, and he played in each game, indicating future opportunities may await.
Losing seven of its final eight games, Ohio State’s season had a disappointing end, but with seven wins, the Buckeyes had seven times more than they had the year prior.
The relationships Matt Kiley formed with his childhood friends and teammates was a glue that helped hold the team together for the turnaround.
“Last year was tough because we had lost a lot, but because we knew each other and were able to motivate each other, we were able to get through to this season,” Matt Kiley said. “It’s hard to come out to training knowing every day we are not doing well, so being there for each other was a big factor.”