The 2019-2020 season was a banner year for OKWU soccer. It was uniquely special for Stefan Lukic, a junior midfielder who was named the 2019 NAIA National Player of the Year.
If you’ve followed his career, the award isn’t surprising at all—Lukic lives and breathes the sport of soccer. Born in Sremksa Mitrovica, Serbia, he’s been playing at the highest level since he was a child. His resume includes time on the Serbian national team, and his performance back home eventually earned him the interest of Everton F.C. of the English Premier League. Before making the transition, though, Lukic had a bad experience with an agent, souring him to the process.
Disenchanted with the world of professional soccer and left aimless, Lukic began to consider his options. Former teammates in Serbia had ended up at OKWU, and when he reached out to a friend who’d made the transition, it seemed like the right place for him. He committed without ever visiting the country, much less the campus.
The results, to say the least, have been outstanding. In addition to the Player of the Year honor— and being named a 1st Team All-American selection—Lukic was instrumental in OKWU’s National Championship appearance, powering the Eagles to the quarterfinals. He led the nation in assists with 17 and ranked fourth nationally in assists per game (.77).
But even more than the success Lukic has found on the field, he’s experienced the life-changing outcome of a community focused on biblical truth and fellowship. “What surprised me the most is the people here,” he said. “The community is just amazing. I have never seen as many kind and good people as I see here at Oklahoma Wesleyan.”
The Promised Land
Through relationships with faculty, friends, and the OKWU community, Lukic experienced a spiritual awakening. “I think that’s where I changed the most: spiritually,” he said. “My theological knowledge was not great, so when I came here, I got that knowledge. I really learned a lot about the Lord, and I think that’s the basis for anything in life. Without theological knowledge, we can’t understand the problems of society.”
After graduation, Lukic hopes to play soccer professionally in the United States or, if plans change, to pursue a career in business. For now, though, he has one more year of athletic eligibility, and he’s got plenty more he wants to achieve—namely, helping his teammates and coaches get to the promised land.
“This is my last chance to get the ring. I would change everything for that,” he said. “I pray to the Lord that he gives us the wisdom and strength and energy to go and get it this year.”
Sports Hall of Fame 2020 Inductees
The OKWU Hall of Fame exists to honor those Eagles who have achieved excellence athletically, academically, and through high personal character consistent with the university’s mission. Inductees are graduates of OKWU, five or more years removed, and must have participated on an OKWU varsity athletic team for at least two years.
Jose Ruiz – Baseball
A native of Venezuela, Ruiz came to OKWU as a non-English speaking student in 2011 to play baseball. During his time on campus, he overcame the language barrier and developed into an outstanding Eagle both on and off the diamond.
Ruiz played from 2011-2014, working at Short Stop and 2nd Base. He maintained a batting average of .337 throughout his career, with 21 home runs and 212 RBIs. In 2014, Ruiz was named the NAIA National Player of the Year.
“God has been incredible to me,” Ruiz said. “He put me in the right place, and when I stepped onto OKWU’s campus, my life changed right away. Since then, I have adored my Savior every single day of my life.
Since graduating, Ruiz has played professional baseball in America, Australia, Europe, and Venezuela.
Lucas Almedia – Soccer
A true OKWU legend, Almedia came to OKWU from Houston, though he originally hails from Brazil. From 2010 through 2013, his resume at OKWU speaks for itself: four-time 1st team All-Conference, MCAC Freshman of the Year, MCAC Offensive Player of the Year, and NAIA 1st Team All-American in 2013.
Almedia finished his career with 41 goals and 34 assists and helped lead OKWU to the 2013 NAIA National Quarterfinals. He was named to the All-Tournament team the same year.
“Lucas’ talent, leadership, and passion changed the trajectory of our program,” Coach Jamie Peterson said. “He was creative and brought a joy to the game that attracted other players and fans to want to be a part of OKWU soccer.”
Lucas Cordeiro – Soccer
One of the most talented players to ever play for OKWU, Cordeiro was a two-time NAIA 1st team All-American and a four-time All-Conference selection. He was named the MCAC Conference Player of the Year three times in a row and appeared in four NAIA National Tournaments. His OKWU career spanned 2010-2013.
Cordeiro ended his career with 48 goals and 51 assists, leading the nation in assists in 2012. He also developed on a personal level during his time on campus, growing into a leadership role.
“He came in as a young kid with his own ideas and matured into a young man who put others first,” Coach Peterson said. “He began serving his teammates and transformed into a leader. Lucas continues to show his servant leadership by serving the communities he has been a part of.”