The six-inch scar on Creighton soccer player Zabarle Kollie’s left arm reminds him of a time when life wasn’t as orderly as it is now.
He spent his first nine years trying to survive as civil war ravaged his native Liberia.
“There was a lot of fighting,” Kollie said.
One day, a man that Kollie said was high on drugs attacked him with a machete, hacking at his left arm and shattering the bone. Kollie survived the attack, and he now looks back on that chapter of his life and uses it as motivation.
“To come from a third-world country and be where I am now is a dream come true,” Kollie said. “The kids back home can only dream of this. I don’t look back on it and see it as anything bad.
“Instead, I try to use it to motivate me to help out people that aren’t as fortunate as I am. I definitely count my blessings.”
One of those blessings has been finding his way to Creighton, where Kollie has been reunited with his old club coach, Elmar Bolowich. Kollie started playing for Bolowich after he and his family immigrated, when he was 9, to North Carolina, where his aunt lives.
Kollie almost followed Bolowich to Omaha when the coach took the Creighton job two seasons ago. Instead, he decided to enroll at North Carolina State. After two seasons, he decided it was time for a change and, after getting his release, contacted his old coach.
“I had some other options, but Elmar has been my coach since youth days,” Kollie said. “But I figured coming here and playing for him would be the best for me.
“With Elmar, I knew what I would be getting. With him, it’s all about consistency. He sets a bar for you, and if you’re not above that bar, he’ll let you know.”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Kollie started five games and played in 18 last season for the Wolfpack, finishing tied for third on the team in scoring (four goals, nine points). As a freshman, Kollie scored two goals and led the team with four assists while playing in 20 games, with nine starts.
Bolowich expects Kollie to be in the starting lineup when sixth-ranked Creighton opens its season Friday with a 7:30 p.m. game against No. 14 Tulsa at Morrison Stadium. The Bluejays also will play Cal Poly at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Bolowich’s memories of coaching Kollie in club soccer are fond ones. That team won three regional championships and played in three national tournaments. The success was one thing, the coach said, but the mix of the players was another.
“We had a real eclectic group,” he said.
Bolowich welcomes the opportunity to coach Kollie again.
“ ‘Z’ is a fighter, and sometimes he’s a little bit his worst enemy in that he gets down on himself when things don’t go his way,” Bolowich said. “I think that’s one of the reasons he decided to come here. He feels comfortable with me.
“I can lay it on pretty thick with him, and he’s good with it. He knows when it comes from me, it comes from the heart. It’s not personal, but it’s all about helping him with the process. I give him the necessary information and let him run off with it.”
Kollie is competing with senior Carlos McCrary for playing time. McCrary scored a goal in Creighton’s intrasquad scrimmage and its 1-0 exhibition win over Notre Dame. Kollie’s goal a week ago produced a 1-1 exhibition tie with the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“They’re both going to play,” Bolowich said. “Who in the end will have the upper hand will play itself out.”
Kollie said his transition to Creighton has been smooth.
“A good player always wants to start, so that is my goal,” he said. “But whatever I can do to help the team, I’m going to do it.”