After an incredible second season in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), many of The Mighty Oak players have returned to their respective campus for the college season. From Michigan to Madonna, we’ve got more info on all of our players taking the pitch this fall.
Let’s begin by taking a look at AFC Ann Arbor players who are playing collegiate soccer in-state.
(Click on school for complete schedule)
In-State Collegiate Players
Warrick didn’t get to see the pitch for The Mighty Oak in 2017, but was a solid contributor to the training sessions and was even asked to back up TJ Tommaso this summer. The Bulldogs compete in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) and open up their season September 3rd against Augustana College of Illinois, as part of a four game home stand to begin the 2017 campaign. Finishing 3rd in the conference last year was the highest for the school since 2010 and top under the Charlie Edwards era as well (entering 4th season as head coach). Warrick will be one of three keepers looking to earn time for Adrian but his experience this summer with Ann Arbor should pave the way for his opportunity to make an impact this season.
Another Ann Arbor keeper will be playing his college ball in the area after transferring from Coastal Carolina. Ward who was the primary backup for Tomasso in 2017, saw action in 3 matches. The third of those matches, Ward was called to start and earned his first clean sheet as a National Premier Soccer League starting goalkeeper. As a transfer, the experience Ward picked up this summer will allow him to compete for serious action right away. The Cardinals season kicks off Saturday, August 26th at home vs Indiana University-East.
Morales who spent last fall at Schoolcraft has joined AFC Ann Arbor teammate and friend, Yuri Farkas for the Crusaders 2017 campaign. Both players have been major contributors to The Mighty Oak in both 2016 and 2017. The two, along with Dario Suarez, began calling themsleves el Tridente because of the natural chemistry and dominat play between the three in the final third of the pitch. Taking this chemistry into NAIA play, the two will look to help Madonna improve upon their 4th place finish in WHAC play last season.
In addition, defender Godfrey Kegode, who has featured in matches for Ann Arbor in all three seasons so far, will be returning as an anchor to a solid Crusader backline.
Madonna kicks off their regular season at home, Friday, August 25th at 6PM vs Goshen College.
*Head Coach Eric Rudland and Assistant Coach Boyzzz Khumalo both enter their 5th season as assistant coaches at Madonna University.
Fiscus made club history this season as the first Spartan to wear the oak on his chest. He made his presence felt immediately for AFC as he was a regular in one of the strongest backline’s in the entire NPSL. The spectacular play this season earned him Third-Team All-NPSL and expectations for his contribution at MSU aren’t far off. Ranked 22nd in the nation and picked to finish 4th in the B1G (preseason poll) conference, with Fiscus earning preseason conference honors as well.
The 2016 Spartans only allowed 17 goals in 20 games in one of the toughest divisions in college soccer. As the only Michigan State player to play every minutes in the 2016 season, to say his impact was massive might still be an understatement.
The regular season begins on the road for MSU as they take on SIUE at 8PM this Friday.
With such a balanced mix in the attack this summer, 10 games into the season there was no clear cut MVP for The Mighty Oak. Vaughan joined a number of players who played exceptional from the beginning of the season, but it was truly a team effort. But as the season progressed, and matches became more meaningful, Vaughan calmly stepped up and became the go-to playmaker Ann Arbor was looking to solidify. Finishing the season with 5 goals and 4 assists, Vaughan not only had a more than memorable summer, but gained a great deal of confidence for an already superb player.
Heading into the fall, he’ll make a massive impact for the Timberwolves as they look to dethrone the dominant SVSU program lead by Andy Wagstaff.
Northwood opens up their season, September 1st on the road vs Maryville.
Rosen enters his first season with SVSU after trasnferring from Schoolcraft where he was team captain and earned MCCAA Honorable Mention. Having spent two season with Ann Arbor as one of the youngest rostered players, fans have had the opportunity to watch Rosen mature and grow as a player the past two summers. Rosen enters this season more prepared than ever and will make impact for a very competitive Andy Wagstaff team.
The Cardinals kick off the 2017 campaign Friday, September 1st at Quincy.
The Ann Arbor native transferred to Spring Arbor University (from WMU) and will immediately impact a Nate Miller (Lansing United Head Coach) lead team this fall. Valdmanis trained with some top talent in Ann Arbor this summer preparing him for a bright future with the Cougars.
Hallahan spent only the early part of the 2017 campaign with Ann Arbor but made a name for himself quickly as the winger’s cheeky, quality first touches opened up play creating a number of goal scoring opportunities for The Mighty Oak.
As noted by Michigan Soccer Now, “...All-Freshman returner, Jack Hallahan should bring the needed flare back to this year’s team.” Expect to see him create a lot of chances in the attacking phase of the match and doing so with style.
Two of Chad Wiseman’s Broncos spent their summer in Ann Arbor, one as a returner and one new to the organization. Jake Rufe, recipient of the 2017 Iron Man Award, was a key returner for The Mighty Oak who was looking to improve upon last year’s early playoff exit. Rufe’s leadership, aggressive play and dedication to the club helped forge the club forward earning their first NPSL playoff win along with breaking 13 club records in 2017. Rufe returns to a very talented Western Michigan team that will look to dethrone the almighty Akron come MAC playoff time.
Ben Thornton was new to AFC Ann Arbor in 2017 but wasted no time in proving his stellar defensive talents and earning him a spot in the Starting XI. Thornton was a reliable, center back that brought depth and consistency to a backline that allowed only 9 goals in 14 regular season matches. If he continues to play the way he did for The Mighty Oak this summer, Thornton will have his best year yet at WMU.
The Broncos season begins September 4th when they host the University of Cincinnati in Kalamazoo.
Out-of-State Collegiate Players
Durham came to Ann Arbor after completing a very successful freshman campaign with AIC. Scoring 7 goals in addition to 4 assists was quite the accomplishment for the young midfielder from England, but Durham has big expectations for the upcoming season. Having trained with some veteran players this summer in Ann Arbor, Durham not only contributed to an AFC side that secured the Great Lakes Conference Championship, but he gained valuable experience that should help his point total and team results improve this fall.
Chase Pagani stepped up in big ways every time his name was called as a sub in ‘17 a role he became familiar with in one of Colgate’s most successful season’s to in 2016. Pagani was a significant contributor playing in 16 matches (5 of which he started) last fall but will most likely find himself in a regular starting role for the Raiders this season.
Along with former Pioneer classmate and AFC Ann Arbor teammate Peter Tappenden, Pagani and team will look to repeat as Patriot League Champions in 2017.
A spark of energy and flare late in The Mighty Oak’s season came compliments of Kwesi “Jep” Allen. After battling an early season injury, Allen fought hard to earn time but found himself becoming a key substitute for Rudland’s side down the stretch. He’s flat out dangerous because of his ability to move upfield quickly in the attacking phase with his long strides and having a strong left only helps his ability to confuse defenders and create quality goal scoring opportunities.
Allen will complete one final season with Iowa CC before deciding where to transfer to as he will have two years of eligibility left after 2017. With a number of division 1 schools lining up, expect a showcase season for Allen looking to make a name for himself at the next level.
The recipient of the club’s Hometown Hero award, Lasinski stepped up in the biggest of situations for Ann Arbor this past season. Two of his most memorable moments came with a game-winning goal in Detroit on July 11th as well as the second goal in the Midwest Region Finals that tied things up at 2-2 with DCFC while playing with only 10 men. You would think from the way he responded in pressure situations that Lasinski was a more seasoned player, but the young striker has only scratched the surface of his budding career.
As a sophomore, Lasinski lead the Ramblers in scoring and was second on the team in overall points. Entering his junior campaign, Loyola fans have a lot to be excited about as Lasinski brings a great deal of confidence with him from an offseason where he accomplished so much with AFC Ann Arbor, and as an individual.
Rockhurst- Kaleb Jackson, Conor Mullen
Teammates Kaleb “KJ” Jackson and Conor Mullen have played together for a long time. The two went to high school together, play at Rockhurst together and both even earned NSCAA Scholar All-American awards during their junior season.
Although they’ve played together so long, the two players bring different talents to the pitch, both of immense value to Rockhurst. Jackson, the leading goal scorer and top point earner for the Hawks, only started in 14 games tallying just over 1,200 minutes of play. Mullen on the other hand was kept off the scoresheet but tallied 23 starts and 2,000 plus minutes that were felt in other ways than points.
The two will look to finish their college seasons strong with their senior campaign kicking off on the road, Thursday the 31st of August.
Watson will be coming off an ACL surgery after he injured it at home vs FC indiana on June 24th. The English native enters junior season with the Griffins and could be fit enough by mid-fall to get back on the pitch. As Watson continues his physical therapy into the fall, the defender would help the Griffins improve on their 12-8 season in 2016.