VALPARAISO | When Adrian Ortiz steps onto the soccer field, the Valparaiso senior feels a sense of calm that can only come when the stresses of life are put to rest.
The Berwyn native doesn't talk about his childhood much, only to say that growing up in Chicago wasn't the easiest thing in the world and to combat the struggles, he found soccer.
The sense of calm is perhaps what has driven Ortiz to become Valparaiso's Iron Man. The midfielder has never missed a match in his career and he was the only position player to play every minute of every match last season.
"Life has always revolved around soccer for me," Ortiz said. "Coming from the problems and the tough life I had, for those 90 minutes, I feel like my life is beautiful. Soccer was a way to get away from all the problems."
Ortiz came to Valparaiso in the fall of 2007 as a member of former coach Mis Mrak's final recruiting class. Mrak left Valparaiso before Ortiz enrolled and was replaced by Mike Avery.
"Mike came to me early and told me that he had heard good things about me," Ortiz said. "Mike brings something more to the table and he expects a lot from us, even from the guys who weren't recruited by him."
Ortiz made an immediate impact for the Crusaders during his freshman season when he assisted on the first goal of the year against North Carolina State. Ortiz finished the year with seven assists, which was good for the second most in school history. Ortiz added two more assists in his sophomore season and then scored his only two collegiate goals against Cleveland State last season, including the match-winner that clinched a home game in the Horizon League tournament.
"Adrian has really become just such a good player," Avery said. "He has a good handle on being a leader on the team. This is his year and I don't think he looks at it as pressure, but he thrives on it. If things go his way, he'll be playing professionally."
Ortiz is very mindful of what this season could mean to Valparaiso soccer. Having entered college as the Crusaders were making the transition to the Horizon League, Ortiz wants to leave as a member of the first team in school history to win a league title.
"My senior class, we've always had goals," Ortiz said. "We wanted to be a winning team and be recognized on campus. Now the goal comes of winning a conference title. Mike has done a good job of keeping our heads straight and leaving a legacy is what we want. Together, we feel like we're brothers and through Mike, we feel we can do this."