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March 31, 2023

Christopher High’s Jake Oetinger works his way up

Jake Oetinger was in the sixth grade when he made it his goal to play college soccer. All of the long hours on the practice field and in the car going to training sessions and matches paid off when he emailed his signed letter of intent to Willamette University in December.

“It was super surreal,” the Christopher High senior said. “Obviously, as an athlete the recruiting process is super long and so being able to commit to a home for the next four years was cool and super relieving at the same time. Definitely a surreal experience.”

Oetinger plays defender for Santa Cruz Breakers FC, a Developmental Academy team. Because of Academy rules and also by his own volition, Oetinger never suited up for Christopher. However, Oetinger did play his freshman year at Valley Christian before transferring to CHS starting as a sophomore. 

Oetinger chose Willamette—a Division III program in Salem, Ore.—over Division I program UC Davis. 

“Weighing the factors and what each offer entailed, Willamette was the more promising offer,” he said. “Both of my parents went to college in the Pacific Northwest so that region appeals to me. And being able to play and earn my Masters (five-year MBA graduate program) was too good to pass up. It was definitely something to think about, but at the end of the day I made the right decision and am happy with what I chose.” 

Matt Oetinger, Jake’s dad and the Christopher High girls soccer coach, said Willamette will be getting a player whose work rate is second to none. 

“Jake really is a worker, he just grinds,” Matt said. “Jake as a child and in general has never really walked onto the field being the most naturally talented or gifted player. So he’s always been working and we have seen many players that were very good and as he was working his way up, they’re no longer playing but Jake is because everyone catches up with you and if you don’t know how to work, the rest of the guys go past you. Jake went past a lot of guys because he knows how to work.”

Oetinger had a huge performance in the 2021 Surf Cup, a showcase event in Oceanside. He captained his Academy team to a championship in their division. In the semifinal, Oetinger scored the tying goal off a header late in the contest in what ended up as a 2-1 victory. 

In the final on the same day, Oetinger scored the only goal of the match—again, off a header—in the last few minutes to propel the team to victory. Willamette men’s soccer coach Sam Adelman was there and saw Oetinger’s late-match heroics. 

“That was what kind of sealed the deal for him,” Oetinger said. “Those two games were obviously huge for me to be able to give my team a reward from the offensive front because as a defender I don’t get too involved offensively.”

“He is mature beyond his years, demonstrating his poise and leadership skills on and off the pitch,” Adelman said on the Willamette men’s soccer website. “He’s a fantastic player, with good athleticism, high IQ, technical quality, and good composure.”

It was no surprise Oetinger was able to rise—literally—above the defense and score off headers. He anticipates the ball well and has worked relentlessly on that part of the game. After the final whistle blew in the championship match, Oetinger felt every gamut of the emotional spectrum. 

“I was thinking, ‘My God, finally,’” he said. “Such a big sense of relief.”

Oetinger said he started playing recreation soccer at age 3 and from there he always displayed a workmanlike attitude. When he was 11 or 12, Oetinger set a goal to play in college and was going to work as hard as he could to see it through. 

“I wanted to open myself up to as many possibilities as I could so I committed myself, put the work in and now it’s paid off,” he said.

Jake Oetinger scored on headers in the Santa Cruz Breakers’ semifinal and final matches in the 2021 Surf Cup.
Photo by Anthony Fuccella.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected]

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