HARRISONBURG — When Abby Oguich was a senior at Monacan High, a knee injury wiped out her final season.
Oguich — who won state titles with Monacan as a freshman, sophomore and junior — tore her left ACL. And, at that point in her career, it left the sidelined forward without many options to play Division I or Division II ball at the next level.
Still, Division III schools like Lynchburg, Randolph-Macon and Roanoke were interested. They recruited her heavily.
“Even though I still was injured, and I was pretty blessed in that aspect,” Oguich said earlier this fall. “But I always knew I wanted something greater for myself in the long run.”
She chose Lynchburg, but in her first practice there, she suffered another injury — a torn right ACL.
It was devastating for her, a second straight season missed.
However, a disciplined approach to the road back helped her return with a bang. She earned ODAC rookie of the year honors in 2020, then followed that up with winning ODAC player of the year last season.
And, at that point, she decided to pursue an opportunity not available to her after her high school career was cut short — to play at the Division I level. And, for her, it proved to be not a dream broken, just one deferred.
Oguich transferred to JMU over the offseason, and is in her first season with the Dukes.
“I knew what I wanted for myself in the long run, especially in that senior year of high school, thinking back,” Oguich said. “And going forward, I was like, ‘This is the dream I’ve always wanted. I want to experience it, I get the opportunity to experience it. Like, why not?’”
At Monacan, a senior Oguich was the lone returning starter heading into the 2017-18 season, coming off three consecutive state championships. But she suffered the torn left ACL in Monacan’s final preseason game that year.
She rehabbed for a year, to return at the beginning of her freshman year at Lynchburg. But in her practice session that fall of 2018, Oguich went down again, this time a torn right ACL.
“It’s crushing. But I know I had bigger and better things to do, and continue to do,” Oguich said. “And, it’s gotten me to the point where I am today.”
The mental side of grappling with the same injury, in back to back years, was what Oguich found most challenging — more than the physical recovery she faced, for another year.
There was a thought of not continuing to play. But it was one she dispelled.
“The decision process of me continuing to play, it was more of I’m not just doing this for myself, but for my team,” Oguich said. “And, at the end of the day, I still love the game. And I didn’t want to let that go, at that point in time. And I’m not one to quit.”
Oguich, as she worked back that second time, held herself accountable. She mapped out goals with her trainers, for where she wanted to reach, and pushed herself over the summer. With consecutive seasons missed, she strove to keep her game sharp.
And to that work is what she attributes her success, when her debut finally came, in the 2019-20 season. She started 25 of the Hornets’ 26 games that year, and led them with 7.7 rebounds a game. She was also their second-leading scorer, with 10.3 points per game.
Oguich became the first Lynchburg player to win ODAC rookie of the year in 26 years.
She backed that up by averaging team bests of 14.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 2020-21 — to become the first-ever Hornet to earn ODAC player of the year honors. And she led Lynchburg to its second ODAC tournament title, which she considers her favorite memory there.
Subsequently, the transfer process that followed was tough. Oguich didn’t want to leave her team. But, at the same time, the dream of playing at a higher level remained in her mind.
And she had a connection at JMU — her brother, Garrett, who also played basketball at Monacan, was a manager for the Dukes’ women’s team. Her brother, who has graduated, let the JMU staff know that she was going to transfer and asked if there was any interest.
There were discussions with Oguich, and JMU made it happen. Oguich joined as a walk-on.
“She knows how to play. ... And she’s really helped our program, just with her personality,” JMU coach Sean O’Regan said. “She’s a great, great kid.”
Oguich has not yet appeared in a game for the Dukes, coming back from an undisclosed injury heading into the season.
The Dukes returned nine players from last year’s team that went 14-10 overall and 9-6 in CAA play. That included Colonial Athletic Association all-conference first team pick Kiki Jefferson, who led them in scoring (16.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.8 rebounds per game). Jefferson is averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 rebounds so far this season for JMU, which was 2-2 heading into a Wednesday afternoon game against North Carolina Central.
“My goal right now is just being there for the team, No. 1. No. 2, being that glue player,” Oguich said. “And maybe over time be that leader that they need. But, right now, I feel like they have all the pieces. Very talented group of girls.”
Oguich, Jefferson said, comes to play — “she brings that dog mentality,” she said.
And with that Oguich worked, breaking through her injury roadblocks.
So that now, finally, she’s reached the level she’s always imagined.
“My dream has become a reality pretty much,” Oguich said, “and I’m pretty thankful for it.”