Johansen player chooses Harvard over soccer

When Johansen High football coach Jason McCoy needed a kicker last fall, Vas Giahos offered to handle the task — and no one was surprised.

"He's a kid who can do anything, it seems, whether he's on the field or in class," athletic director James Davis said. "He's the sort of kid who has a lot of options, and he's taking advantage of them all."

Giahos played three sports, had a course load heavy with Advanced Placement classes, was homecoming king, had a hand in a variety of academic clubs and was No. 1 in the senior class with his 4.6 GPA.

A soccer player at heart, Giahos passed on invitations to join a collegiate team in favor of pursuing a degree at Harvard University. He will be enrolling in the fall.

"I've played soccer all of my life, but it's difficult to say no when Harvard calls," Giahos said. "Two of my final choices were Cal (University of California at Berekeley) — my brother Steve plays water polo there — and Harvard. My priority is always going to be academics."

Although the prospect of a Harvard degree had a role in Giahos' decision, so did the possibility that he might be able to play soccer for the Crimson.

"Cal made it clear that they didn't usually take walk-ons, but the coach at Harvard said there's an opportunity," said Giahos, an all-conference defender for Johansen who helped his Ajax travel team to the State Cup semifinals.

Had Giahos made soccer a priority, he would have been a recruiting target for many small colleges. There's no certainty he'll play for Harvard.

Davis says if anyone is capable of pulling double-duty at Harvard, meeting the expectations of professors as well as a soccer coach, it's Giahos. And Davis isn't alone, either.

"He was able to balance his schedule in the fall to maintain his high academic standards and athletic schedule," said football coach Jason McCoy. He pointed out that Giahos "was not afraid to make a tackle on special teams."

In addition to kicking balls on the field, he was one of the Modesto Metro Conference's best on the track this spring.

The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Giahos is receiving a substantial financial incentive from Harvard, too. The typical annual cost is $54,000, he said, but his cost will be closer to $20,000.

His desire to play soccer got the Harvard coach in his corner, and his work with the mock trial, science bowl and other academic activities bolstered his academic résumé.

"I had him in AP U.S. history and found him very opinionated, in a good way" said coach Brent Bohlender, who once tried to recruit Giahos to his water polo team.