The 2019 collegiate soccer season is underway and AFC Ann Arbor family members are scattered across the country on different campuses this fall. With the network bigger than ever after the inaugural women’s club season, things may be tricky tracking players with the quantity and diversity in location. Not to worry, though, as The Mighty Oak are pleased to have your all-encompassing guide of teams (and players) to watch for in the wake of yet another playoff season for the men, and the very first season for the women.
Michigan: Jack Hallahan (senior), Abdou Samake (senior), Joel Harrison (sophomore), Marc Ybarra (junior)
The Michigan Wolverines are coming off a strong season in the Big Ten, making back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, reaching the Big Ten Tournament finals, and going on a nine-match unbeaten run during the season. The Mighty Oak are well-represented by the hometown Division One school as two of three captains for the Wolverines (Harrison, and Ybarra) have worn the blue and white of AFCAA. Additionally, Hallahan is the returning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and will hope to have a repeat performance of last season.
Madonna: Breno Stapcinkas (junior), Bruno Piva (freshman), Yuri Farkas (senior), Caio (junir), Leonardo Abonizio (junior)
The NAIA runner-up in the 2018-19 season, Madonna and AFCAA have always seen plenty of players play with both sides. Stapcinkas and Piva will be in their first seasons with the Madonna program, but The Mighty Oak faithful are sure to be watching out for Farkas, coming off a superb season with Flint City Bucks, along with Caio and Abonizio. While Marlon de Freitas is now graduated, they return plenty of talent, and will hope to make a run once again in the NAIA Tournament. A special note of mention goes to Jeff Shuk and Rod Asllani as they coach Madonna, and also to Carlos Rivas (senior) who was a member of The Mighty Oak’s staff.
Stony Brook: Stephen Turnbull (junior - RS), Jarred Dass (senior)
The Stony Brook-to-Ann Arbor pipeline has been well in motion for two years running, and this will be the second collegiate season that fans in Ann Arbor can have a vested interest in the Seawolves season. Serge Gamwanya and Moco Watson graduated from a team that won the American East regular season crown, but Dass was that team’s leading scorer and was voted to the 2018 America East First Team. Turnbull is a mainstay and be looking forward to this season after having played in just three games last season.
Concordia: Spencer Ward (senior)
Ward gets special note for being the lone man who will play his collegiate and AFCAA home matches in the same venue. Having made 97 saves last season for a 78.2% save percentage, Ward will be hoping to get into similarly good shot-stopping form for his senior season. The keeper made the start for The Mighty Oak in a handful of games, including the club’s U.S. Open Cup match, as well as serving as Eric Rudland’s favored keeper for the Michigan Milk Cup.
Western Michigan: Lukas von Lienen (sophomore)
Another in-state club with another keeper as their lone representative. Lukas von Lienen will look to continue serving as Western Michigan’s number one keeper as they continue to be one of the MAC’s premier soccer programs. He was the MAC’s best keeper in terms of GAA last season with a one-even, and stopped fifty shots in his sixteen matches. The German, in addition to applying his trade in net this summer, also gained valuable experience as a pilot and even celebrated his first solo flight in Ann Arbor.
Lawrence Tech: Bryce Nicholson (junior)
The ultra-versatile Nicholson played both center back and full back with AFCAA this past summer, and contributed some valuable minutes both early and late in the season. As an upperclassman, now, he will hope to continue anchoring the LTU back line in the NAIA. An ever-present with the club, he was one of the few players able to be a part of the side from the very first preseason game all the way through the playoffs.
Stetson: Sebastian Chalbaud (sophomore)
An All-Great Lakes Conference XI choice for 2019, Chalbaud will hope to use that momentum and build upon an outstanding freshman season that saw him named to the ASUN All-Freshman Team. The Venezuelan youth national played and started in eighteen of the Hatters nineteen games and contributed five assists. Now wearing the #10 shirt, big things are expected from the midfield man.
Florida Atlantic: Alex Alexis (senior)
Alexis played in all fifteen matches with the Owls as a junior and will look to contribute even more after this summer season. The scorer of the first U.S. Open Cup goal in club history, the pacey winger scored a pair of goals with the Owls last season while contributing seventeen shots as a whole. He hopes to end his career with a bang in the C-USA.
Maryville: Iwan Webster (junior)
The Liverpool native became a key component in the back line for AFCAA. Whether it was starting in the Open Cup, or rotating in the center back position alongside Matt Braem or Ben Thornton, Webster was able to make himself right at home in Ann Arbor. Now, he goes back to Maryville where he started 37 of his 38 games played and helped push his Saints to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, as well as a 2018 GLVC Tournament Championship.
Siena: Jacob Pacheco (junior)
A junior-college standout in Arizona, Pacheco makes the move up to Division One this season as he joins the Siena Saints for his career’s next chapter. Having played both defensive midfield and center back during the course of the year, the hard-working Pacheco is more than suited to making the jump in competition to the MAAC for the next two seasons.
Georgia Southern: Azaad ‘AZ’ Liadi (senior)
Pacheco is not the only man making a transfer up to Division One. Liadi, after a successful stint with Cincinnati Dutch Lions in USL2, will be moving down south to play with the Eagles. Liadi is best known with The Mighty Oak for his 90th minute stoppage time equalizer in the 2018 Midwest Regional Final against Duluth FC and brings an abundance of talent to the pitch.
Aquinas: Jenna Smith (senior), Olivia Borgdorff (senior), Brittney Carter (sophomore), Katie Vitella (student manager)
The Aquinas Saints are the best-represented women’s side on this list. With Smith (who played in nine of the ten UWS matches this summer) and Borgdorff having made the jump from Schoolcraft to the Saints prior to last season, they are hoping to finish their collegiate careers off strong. Carter, meanwhile, looks to continue to build off her freshman year and contribute for the Saints. Vitella, having wrapped up her own successful collegiate playing career, now joins the support staff for Aquinas as a graduate manager.
Central Michigan: Devyn Brough (junior - RS), Amanda Britain (junior)
AFCAA will have a pair of Chippewas playing this season as Brough and Britain look to enter their years of upperclassmen eligibility with a strong season. The Michigan natives went to Auburn and Mount St. Mary’s, respectively, before ending up in Mount Pleasant. Both were named Academic All-MAC honorees and Brough made nine appearances while Britain made eight in the UWS this summer. The CMU pair were key to The Mighty Oak’s play in the inaugural season and will hope to contribute at the same level yet again with the Chippewas.
Ball State: Tatiana Mason (sophomore), Alex Deruvo (sophomore)
A pair of sophomores from the greater Ann Arbor area will hope to make an impact with one of the top women’s sides in the MAC. The reigning MAC Champions, Mason also returns to the Cardinals as the 2018 MAC Freshman of the Year and a All-MAC Second Team selection. She led Ball State with six goals and chipped in three assists. Known in Ann Arbor for her red scrunchie, she offers creativity and pace on the wing. Deruvo will be hoping to break in the Cardinals first team as she continues to gain valuable experience learning with a strong stable of goalkeepers in Muncie.
Saginaw Valley State: Tara Arlin (junior)
Arlin makes the jump from Schoolcraft up to SVSU for her next two seasons of collegiate soccer. The first ever female COYMO Award winner, Arlin started 27 of the 28 matches she played in for the Ocelots and saw a massive jump in shots taken as well from her freshman to sophomore seasons. Always a consistent presence on the pitch, as well as in the community, Arlin and the Cardinals hope to build off a team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
Lawrence Tech: Alayne Nyboer (senior)
One of the most consistent members of the AFCAA back line, Nyboer made nine appearances in the UWS as well as sixteen appearances with LTU last season. She was a key points threat for the Blue Devils in the 2018-19 season with five goals and six assists, second-most on the team in terms of total points and goals, but those six assists were good for team best.
Adrian: Caroline Fleming (senior)
Fleming enters her senior season as one of the immediate team leaders for this 2019-20 Bulldogs side. A three-year starter, she has made sixty starts, including all 21 for the side that won the MIAA Conference Championship for the first time in program history. She has contributed 23 goals and twenty assists to the Bulldogs over her three years and is coming off back-to-back double-digit goal seasons.
Columbus State: Rachel Sweigard (sophomore)
When it comes to standout performers from the inaugural women’s season, Sweigard certainly is at the front of that list. Sweigard led the club in goals with seven in seven UWS matches, including a hat trick in the 5-2 home opener victory against Grand Rapids FC. She was also named to the UWS Midwest First Team. Her Cougars went 18-1-2, including a perfect 10-0 in conference play, en route to the national quarterfinals last season. Sweigard played in twenty of those matches, started seven, and chipped in seven goals and four assists -- leading to a points tally good enough for fourth on the team. After impressing in the summer, she hopes to help get Columbus State back to the top of the mountain.
Martin Methodist: Suzuho Yamasaki (sophomore)
The club’s Goal of the Season winner, Yamasaki’s stunning 35-yard strike in the victory over GRFC instantly made club history. Yamasaki was at the heart of the midfield for the entire season and would end the season as the club’s leading minute-getter. In addition, Yamasaki would also be named to the UWS Midwest Second Team for her efforts. She now returns to Martin Methodist where the Redhawks went 19-1-2 and made it to the Second Round of the NAIA Tournament last season.
Ashland: Bella Petrock (sophomore)
Appearing in six matches in midfield for The Mighty Oak, Petrock was also a stable presence in midfield and was able to help AFCAA control through the middle during matches she was involved in. Petrock made eighteen starts while playing in all twenty matches for the Ashland Eagles, providing three goals. Her Eagles made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large side, and the hope is for a return to the tourney this November.
Boston: Margaret Berry (sophomore)
The women’s team’s defensive MVP for the inaugural season, Berry played a vital role with the club. This collegiate season she will return to the Boston Terriers where she played in six matches over the course of the season. Boston enter 2019 as the reigning Patriot League Tournament Champions and will hope to make another NCAA Tournament appearance. The Holly native will hope to transition a superb season with The Mighty Oak into more accomplishments for her collegiate side.
East Carolina: Madie Knaggs (junior)
Knaggs appeared in seven matches in UWS play for AFCAA, and showcased skill time and time again. She will be gearing up for her third season in purple as the Trenton native will look to continue contributing to East Carolina. She appeared in sixteen matches last season and scored a pair of goals, including one in her second career start against SMU.
Illinois: Erin McKeown (sophomore)
The Ann Arbor Pioneer graduate will be starting her second season of Big Ten play with the Fighting Illini this fall. Having made a handful of appearances with The Mighty Oak this summer, she now looks to translate that into a greater advantage in the demanding Big Ten. With Illinois she made a pair of early-season appearances as a freshman.
Nebraska: Ashley Zugay (sophomore)
Zugay is another Pioneer graduate who played a key role while back in her hometown with The Mighty Oak. She will return to a solid Nebraska side that secured five wins in a tough Big Ten while she played in nineteen matches, with nine starts. She continued to gain more-and-more playing time as the season went on and ultimately played in both matches of the Cornhuskers run in the Big Ten Tournament.