Joey Olivette wins most 50-50 balls in the air.

The 6-foot-3 Olivette is one of Monroe-Woodbury’s most dangerous threats on set pieces.

And when Olivette makes a run to goal, he’s almost impossible to stop, like his 80-yard dash and score against Kingston earlier this season.

Olivette’s contributions have not gone unnoticed in his return to the pitch. He’s helped Monroe-Woodbury, the state’s top-ranked Class AA team, to an undefeated record in its first 19 games.

Heading into Saturday’s semifinals at Middletown, Monroe-Woodbury, Class C S.S. Seward and Class D Mount Academy are two wins away from state titles.

“I'm just doing what I can to help benefit the team,” Olivette said. “I'm not trying to be selfish at all. It doesn't matter who gets the goal or who gets the assists as long as we get the win at the end of the day. Nineteen times this season, it's worked.”

Olivette quit soccer to kick for Monroe-Woodbury’s football team his junior year after receiving quality minutes in the midfield as a sophomore. Olivette’s focus was 100 percent directed at football but his heart wasn’t into the change. Soccer was the sport that Olivette had played since elementary school.

“I would go into football practice every day and it wasn't the same,” Olivette said. “I didn't have the same passion that I did for soccer. I was missing (soccer) practices and missing playing with this team. I've been playing with these kids since I was 8 or 9 years old."

When Olivette indicated that he was rejoining the soccer team for his final season, coach Kenny Clearwater knew Monroe-Woodbury had added an impact player.

The Crusaders were set in the midfield with seniors Ikiel Collins Brown, Nolan Kelly, Colin Lagarde and Connor Paik. Clearwater shifted Olivette to defense for the first time in his soccer career. He paired with senior Christian Garner at center back. Olivette proved to be a vital member of Monroe-Woodbury’s “Wall.” The Crusaders have surrendered just four goals this season.

“We are kind of a smaller team and he brings that size and a real willingness to win the ball in the air,” Clearwater said. “He's very aggressive and those are things that complement Christian Garner really well. Christian is a more cerebral player that tries to read the game. It's definitely a good balance.”

Clearwater remembers Olivette, who has scored six goals out of the back, and many of Monroe-Woodbury’s current senior class coming to watch training during the Crusaders’ last state Final Four run in 2013. Now it’s their turn to make history and capture the school’s first state title.

“It’s incredible what we are doing this year as a team,” Olivette said. “It set up perfectly for us.”

sinterdonato@th-record.com

Twitter: @salinterdonato