Valparaiso's Yamen Atassi had a varsity career shortened by a myriad of injuries.
Vikings coach Danny Jeftich still knew he had an incredible talent in the senior forward -- so much that Jeftich called him "the missing link" as Atassi sat out all of last season with a herniated disc.
Atassi returned this season and the Vikings captured their first regional championship since 2005 before dropping a 2-0 decision to Hamilton Southeastern in the Warsaw Semistate semifinals.
Atassi's statistics weren't eye-popping -- he had seven goals and seven assists this season -- but as probably the most skilled player on the Vikings, Atassi is The Times 2012 boys soccer player of the year.
"There's a lot of good players in the area, so it means I lot that I got this award," Atassi said. "There's a lot of other guys I know that are worthy of the award."
Coming back from his many injuries is a testament to Atassi's toughness, according to Jeftich. Atassi also missed most of his sophomore season with nagging injuries.
"I knew he was a special player from the beginning," Jeftich said. "This year, he really put it all together. He's a very religious young man, and he had that faith that he could do it. He's very mentally tough and very coachable."
Jeftich also recognized Atassi as an impact player for his team this season. Statistically speaking, he wasn't the best player on the roster, but his effect was felt on the soccer pitch in many other ways.
"When he steps on the field, players feel his energy," Jeftich said. "We were more confident individually and collectively. He was a main reason that we did what we did this year. He was one of the unsung heroes who stepped up."
When the season ended against the Royals, Jeftich said nobody took the loss harder than Atassi.
"I felt we should have won that game," Atassi said. "Usually, I get over games pretty quickly, but this one hit me really hard. It took me about three or four days to get over it. It was really emotional."
Finally having a chance to be healthy and play through his final varsity season meant a lot to Atassi, especially with the success the Vikings had this season.
"It was a really awesome experience," he said. "Every single game was so much fun. It was just an honor to play with those guys."