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Mace & Crown | March 19, 2018

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Ivan Militar’s Decorated Journey as a Monarch Soccer Player

Matt O’Brien
Sports Editor

The year is 2011. Ivan Militar is preparing for his second week of soccer practice at Old Dominion. Although he had made it to practice on time, his roommate, who was also on the soccer team, slept in.

“Coach Dawson looked around at the start of practice and realized there was one less guy out there. We knew we were in trouble,” Militar said.

The practice that followed was packed with running and incredibly competitive games. Just one month into his collegiate career in the United States, Militar was being held accountable for his roommate’s late arrival.

“It was the toughest practice of all-time,” Militar said. ”In the showers that day afterwards, I thought, ‘Where the hell am I? How am I going to do this every day?’”

Ten goals and 21 assists later, practices like that one are just another day for Militar, who is now a redshirt senior. His record of assists earned the record of fifth all-time and speaks to the kind of player he’s been at ODU.

“When I came in, things were different. We have evolved in my time here, all for the better,” Militar said.

He has made his mark in setting up his teammates and establishing himself as a first-string player, but he’s made a conscious effort not to get caught up in the statistics.

“The assist column is very important to me. I want to put my teammates in the best position I can,” he said.

A personal goal Militar set for himself was to surpass other players in assists. He has succeeded in the last few weeks.

Militar was recently rewarded by his coaches. He was given the armband that signifies his role as captain of the team. He thinks back to those who were before him: Tommy Webb, Jason Gaylord and Chris Harmon. Militar still considers Harmon — who is now serving as a women’s soccer assistant here — one of his best friends.

“I learned so much from the other captains before me. I wanted to emulate them. I wanted to be respected like they were.” Militar said.

In his fifth season, Militar has earned that respect, led by example and let his playing do the talking. He finished this season with three goals and six more assists. His second goal of the season made headlines and went viral on social media.

The goal came at a home game on Oct. 10 against New Mexico, and was a lifetime in the making. It consisted of an incredible cutback, a beautiful touch with the right heel to create space, and a shot off his left foot to leave the defense stunned. Militar first saw the move performed by French soccer star Diddier Drogba. The video that went viral was released by Fox Soccer, but it didn’t compare him to Drogba. Instead, Militar was compared to the likes of superstar Christiano Ronaldo.

“I have been able to pull off that move in practice before. I was very happy that a move like that worked in a game situation,” Militar said.

That goal was merely a testament at how hard Militar has worked to perfect his craft since his arrival in Norfolk. He knows that he has few chances left to leave an impact and his mindset has evolved in his senior season.

“I want to give my last drop of blood to this program and to this team. With each passing game the emotional impact is a little different. I feel the pressure more and more,” Militar said.

While his time here as a Monarch is winding down, Militar is also able to reflect on his tenure and the people who helped him get to this point.

“For Coach Dawson to bring a Hungarian kid in after only watching him play once, that’s bravery right there,” Militar said.

Militar has also worked with four assistant coaches, including Trevor Addaire and Ryan Sniegosky, who helped Militar to shape his skills throughout his early days and find himself as a player. The assistant coaches helped him pinpoint his weaknesses and improve his game over the years. Militar still remains in contact with both coaches.

“I’ve matured a lot. When I came in, I was a little hectic. I was unorganized defensively. Sometimes I tried to do just a little too much,” he said.

Some of his early issues as a player stem from the differences between the way the game is played in Hungary and the collegiate game in the United States. In Hungary there’s a large emphasis on technical skill, whereas in the United States there is much more physicality to the game.

“I’m not the most physical guy on the field and it was definitely a learning experience,” Militar said

Militar’s journey from his homeland of Hungary to Norfolk, Virginia, is interesting. The Szeged native was in the right place at the right time by some way of fate.

Atilla Vendegh, who Militar refers to as “the greatest player who ever played here at ODU,” is an alumni who played from 2000 to 2003. Vendegh, also a Hungarian native, had just gotten a job in the capital of Hungary and came to see Militar play.

It happened to be a two-goal, two-assist game for Militar, in a 4-1 victory and his best game of that season. That performance was all Vendegh needed to see.

“This kid can definitely play here and he’s going to be [a] strength on your team,” Vendegh told coach Dawson.

While he has had many influences on his game in his time in Norfolk, his biggest role model is a different kind of sports icon.

“Kobe Bryant is my biggest idol in sports. He is everything I aspire to be,” Militar said.

Leaving a legacy of his own on the ODU soccer program is very important.

“I just really want people to remember how Ivan Militar played with the passion and commitment for Old Dominion soccer,” he said.

Militar’s future plans include soccer. He is open to playing in the United States, but also interested in playing in European leagues.

“I have a lot left to give to this game. I’m open to playing anywhere,” Militar said.

Almost six years after Coach Dawson found Militar through one of his alumni, Militar has left a legacy as a hard working, consistent and smart player.

He only has one regret.

“My first two years, my mindset was just survival. Whenever I went into games, I was just happy to be playing. I wish my mentality had been a little different,” Militar said. “All in all it has been an incredible ride.”