Men's Soccer Officially Announces Top-Ranked Recruiting Class

AKRON, Ohio –

The University of Akron men's soccer program officially announced its 2009 recruiting class Monday. The highly acclaimed group, which was ranked as the No. 1 class in the nation by ESPNRise.com, features seven All-Americans and six players with national team experience.

"Our 2009 class is a collection of the best of the best from across the country, in the state of Ohio, and overseas," said UA head coach Caleb Porter. "This blend of players will bring a tremendous amount of talent and experience into the program. While these payers were some of the most sought after and highly-rated in the country, what's most important is they have filled some very specific needs and also fit the pedigree of student athlete that we look for."

In all, the Zips' much-hyped class is comprised of two defenders, four midfielders, two forwards and a pair of goalkeepers.

"These young men are not only outstanding players and should enhance our options in every position, but they will also help raise the bar academically, which is in line with our current culture of excellence on and off the field," Porter said. "Another unique quality of this class is the majority of them have already played together on either club or youth national teams. That built-in chemistry and cohesiveness, as well as having half of the players already join us in January, should help their transition for an immediate impact."

Bringing U.S. national team experience to the mix are under-20 stars Ben Speas, a midfielder from Stow, Ohio, and Zarek Valentin, a defender from Lancaster, Pa.; and under-18 standouts Chad Barson, a defender from Columbus, Ohio, Scott Caldwell, a midfielder from Boston, Mass., and David Meves, a goalkeeper from Arlington Heights, Ill.

Forward Yoram Mwila, who hails from Lusaka, Zambia, was the captain of the U-17 Zambian national team and is a current member of the U-20 squad.

Also signing on to play for the Zips next fall are a pair of National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) High School Boys All-Americans Matt Mason, a forward from Akron, and Eric Stevenson, a midfielder from Columbus.

Two more in-state products Brandon Silva, a midfielder from Columbus, and Anthony Ponikvar, a goalkeeper from Brecksville, Ohio, round out the talented group. Silva is a member of the Academy National Finals U-18 Columbus Crew Academy team while Ponikvar, a redshirt freshman transfer from Cornell, was a Division I All-Ohio second team selection in 2008.

"I am excited to welcome this group into the Akron soccer family and look forward to helping all of them in their achievement of individual and collective success'" Porter said.

Porter, the 2008 NCAA All-Ohio Coach of the Year, and his staff have now put together three, top-five recruiting classes in as many years since arriving on campus, following No. 5 designations in each of the previous two seasons.

"I would like to give special credit to assistant coaches Dave Giffard and Jared Embick for their dedication and tireless work behind the scenes in helping with the recruitment of these elite prospects," Porter said. "Without their efforts and the work of our support staff as well as key people in the University and Athletics Department, this class would not have been possible."

Specifically, Porter identified UA Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades, Senior Associate Athletics Director Mary Lu Gribschaw, Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek, Associate Athletics Director Anne Jorgensen and Assistant Athletics Director Kevin Klotz from the athletics administration staff; Greg Landis, Zia Ahmed, Dale Mugler, Stefanie Kozy and Denise Garrett-Brown from the University; and trainer Brett Draper, strength and conditioning coach Tim Campbell, volunteer coach Oliver Slawson and administrative assistant Nancy Stott from the men's soccer support staff.

Speas, who is the eighth-ranked prospect in the nation according to ESPN Rise.com, also competed on the U.S. national U-18 and U-17 teams. He is a two-time Parade All-American ('07, '08), an NSCAA High School Boys All-American in 2008 and an adidas ESP All-Star in 2007. Speas is also a member of the Academy National Finals U-18 Columbus Crew Academy team.

Valentin brings the experience of having played on four U.S. national teams (U-20, U-18, U-17 and U-15) and is also a 2008 NSCAA High School Boys All-American. Valentin, who was ranked the 53rd-best high school prospect by Top Drawer Soccer, was also a three-time NSCAA Youth All-American ('06, '07, '08), and an ESPN Rise All-America first team honoree.

Barson is another standout who has starred on multiple U.S. national teams (U-18, U-17, U-15) and is the 10th-best prospect in the nation according Top Drawer Soccer. He is a 2008 Parade All-American, a two-time NSCAA Youth All-American and a 2008 all-state second team honoree for Division I.

Meves also competed on the U-17 U.S. national team and is a two-time Parade All-American ('07, '08) and three-time NSCAA Youth All-American ('06, '07, '08). Meves, who is the 55th-ranked prospect in the nation according to Top Drawer Soccer, was an adidas ESP participant.

Furthermore, Speas, Valentin, Barson and Meves all competed in the Developmental Academy League, sponsored by U.S. Soccer.

Caldwell is another U.S. national team veteran, having also played with the U-18, U-17 and U-15 squads. Caldwell, who is the ninth-ranked prospect by Top Drawer Soccer, is a 2008 Parade All-American and three-time NSCAA Youth All-American ('06, '07, '08).

Mason is an ESPN Rise All-America second team selection, a 2008 All-Ohio first team honoree and the Ohio Player of the Year for Division II. Stevenson, who is the 27th-ranked prospect by Top Drawer Soccer, was a Division III, All-Ohio first team honoree in 2007 and a member of the U-18 Columbus Crew Academy team.

The Zips, who will return eight of 11 starters from a record-setting campaign in 2008, will kick off their seven-game spring exhibition schedule – highlighted by a contest against Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew at Lee Jackson Field on Apr. 26 – next month. In addition to the exciting home event, Akron's challenging schedule features road games against four top-25 programs, including Michigan, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Indiana.

Akron Men's Soccer Recruiting Class of 2009
Chad Barson, Defender, Columbus, Ohio
Scott Caldwell, Midfielder, Boston, Mass.
Matt Mason, Forward, Akron, Ohio
David Meves, Goalkeeper, Arlington Heights, Ill.
Yoram Mwila, Forward, Lusaka, Zambia
Anthony Ponikvar, Goalkeeper, Brecksville, Ohio
Brandon Silva, Midfielder, Columbus, Ohio
Ben Speas, Midfielder, Stow, Ohio
Eric Stevenson, Midfielder, Columbus, Ohio
Zarek Valentin, Defender, Lancaster, Pa.

2009 Spring Schedule
Sat., Mar. 28 vs. Oakland, Rochester, Mich. 12 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 28 vs. Michigan, Rochester, Mich., 6 p.m.
Fri., Apr. 3 vs. Wake Forest, Winston-Salem, N.C., 7 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 5 vs. North Carolina, Greensboro, N.C., 1 p.m.
Sat. Apr. 18,vs. Indiana, Ft. Wayne, Ind., 7 p.m.
Sun., Apr. 26 vs. Columbus Crew, Akron, Ohio, 5 p.m.