Six members of the boys 2014 Elite travel program graduating class are presently pursuing their college soccer dreams on playing fields from Maine to North Carolina. The 21013/2014 U18 squad was a talented group who won the VYSA State Cup at the U16 age group and maintained a close-knit team environment as the roster composition evolved over their final years with SOCA.
Bill Mueller, who coached the team in their final year with SOCA, praised the group for their ability on and off the field. “This was a really terrific group of young men. Many of them had been with the club right from the beginning, starting at Hots Shots, continuing through Recreation, Challenge and eventually to the Elite level of travel soccer. Added to that core group were other gifted players from surrounding communities who joined in and contributed to the team. These guys were talented on the field and mature and responsible off the field, and had great academic accomplishments. I am not surprised by the success some of the graduates are having in college soccer.”
Battling last year in the inaugural state-wide CCL campaign provided the players solid experience for college level play. Competition in the top quality regional league is fierce at the high school age groups. Competing in top level tournaments, State Cup play and the Disney Showcase further tested the team’s mettle and honed skills.
“I used to tell the boys that there were no easy games left,” said Mueller. “Every league match and every single tournament and Cup game was going to be a challenge. At the U18 age group, only serious players and serious teams remained playing at our level. They were tested in each match, and they grew as a result.”
SOCA’s current Elite level teams are similarly being tested by top flight competition and are getting prepared to advance to college soccer and beyond.
Leading the list of 2014 graduates is Forrest White, who now plays for D1 Virginia Tech. White has played in six of the teams seven matches to date, getting the starting nod four times. White has played nearly 60% of the available minutes for the Hokies, who play a hugely demanding national schedule. The squad presently has a winning 4-3 record after posting a big win over Wake Forest the other night. Look for White to continue to make contributions to the squad in the remainder of the season. Follow Tech soccer here: http://www.hokiesports.com/msoccer/
At D3 Christopher Newport University, two SOCA grads are enjoying being ranked sixth nationally in men’s soccer, with a 6-1-1 record to date. Henry Gotay and Girma Baker are both getting playing time on the outstanding Captains squad. Gotay has played in all eight matches, starting two and logging a single assist in the scoring column so far. Baker has seen action in four of the matches as the Captains have faced competition from around the country. Check out CNU soccer here: http://www.cnusports.com/index.aspx?path=msoc&tab=0
Michael Nafziger, co-captain of the SOCA U18’s last year, has been a major contributor at D3 Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. The Garnet have posted an impressive 6-1 record, with Nafziger seeing action in all seven matches, starting six, having played 75% of the available minutes in regular season competition. Find more Swarthmore men’s soccer info here: http://www.swarthmoreathletics.com/index.aspx?path=msoc
Further afield, at Bowdoin College in Maine, 2014 co-captain Frankie Ahrens has earned a roster spot on the Polar Bears squad (http://athletics.bowdoin.edu/sports/msoc/index) while in North Carolina, Scott Christman has earned a roster spot on the D2 Belmont Abbey Crusaders (http://abbeyathletics.com/sports/msoc/index).
“It speaks well of these players and their preparation through the club, that so many are not only playing college soccer, but are major contributors as freshman on high-level teams,” said Mueller. “Other members of last year’s team have opted to prioritize their academic pursuits at great schools like Yale and UVa. I am really proud of all the 2014 U18 team members. The represented SOCA with class and quality as a team, and are now great ambassadors for the club in their new pursuits.”
SOCA provides excellent exposure opportunities for Elite players through CCL and ASL events, top tournaments and VYSA State Cup play. SOCA maintains strong relationships with college coaches throughout the region and enjoys a favorable reputation for developing quality players and quality team members at the college level.
Coming next: report on 2014 girls Elite graduates in college soccer.