Valparaiso University head men’s soccer coach Mike Avery announced today that the Crusaders have received commitments from six players to join the Valpo program as freshmen for the fall of 2013. The newest additions to the Crusader program includes defenders Mo Harb (Riverside, Calif./Riverside Poly) and John Patton (Golden Valley, Minn./Saint Thomas Academy), midfielder Forrest Chong (Brighton, Mich./Brighton), forward Kevin Klett (Muncie, Ind./Muncie Burris) and goalkeepers Nate Kitchell (Weston, Wis./D.C. Everest) and Jacob Peterson (River Forest, Ill./Fenwick). These six players join Julio Velasquez (Albuquerque, N.M./Lincoln College), who started classes and has been a part of team training since his enrollment in January.
“This group of student-athletes is a great start to our recruiting efforts for 2013,” stated Avery. “We will add a few more recruits in the coming weeks as we iron out some details prior to any official announcement, but this collection of young men demonstrates clearly what we sought to bring to our program when the recruiting process began. These guys are winners, talented soccer players, exceptional students, and – most importantly – they are young men that possess high character. Five of the six of these incoming freshmen are veterans of our VIP camp program, so we know exactly what we’re getting with this group, and I couldn’t be happier.“
Harb follows in the footsteps of several other California natives on the Crusaders’ roster and looks to share in the success that they have had in the Midwest. The 6’1” defender was part of the Riverside Poly team which won the Big 8 League Championship in 2010. Harb set a school record in that championship season, leading the team in scoring with 16 goals. Since 2010, Harb has not participated in prep soccer, choosing instead to participate as a full time player with Strikers FC of the USSF Developmental Academy. This past year, Harb was given the honor of participating in the 30th annual NI Milk Cup, which is one of the top youth tournaments in the world, held in Northern Ireland.
“Getting to know Coach Avery and Coach Oleck helped me realize that Valparaiso University was the right fit for me,” Harb said. “My communication with them reflected their high character and ambition for the program. Those factors, along with the family atmosphere they have created on the team, made my decision clear. Valparaiso is a fantastic place to continue my soccer development, education, and personal growth. I am blessed with this opportunity and will work hard to continue the team’s success.”
“Landing another player out of talent-rich Southern California is always a bonus for our program, and to get one from Strikers FC is very exciting,” said Avery. “The number of D1 players that Strikers FC has produced over the years is impressive, and there is little doubt that they are one of the premier clubs in the US. Mo has been a regular as a defender in one of this season’s top Academy sides, and the experience he has gained at that level is evident when you see him play. Mo reminds me of Jonathon Smith, who had an awesome four-year career for us. Mo is athletic and strong enough to handle the opponent’s best attackers, and is technical enough to help us connect and build as we are team that prides itself in playing out of the back. Once we got to know him better off the field at our VIP camp, we were sold, and we knew that he’d be a great fit for us.”
Patton joins the Crusader roster following a strong high school career, both athletically and academically, at Saint Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights, Minn. Utilizing his versatility, the Cadet defender and midfielder was twice named to the Classic Suburban All-Conference Team in his sophomore and junior year. Off the field, Patton earned the grades in the classroom to place him on the Honor Roll for three of his four years at STA. In the spring of 2012, Patton was selected to the roster of the Minnesota Thunder within the USSF Developmental Academy. While with the Thunder, Patton helped propel them to a U16 Midwest Regional Championship and a third-place finish at the National Tournament. Patton plans on studying business administration while at Valpo.
“I chose Valpo for its high quality, personalized education,” Patton said. “I’m also very excited to play at a high level of soccer among players who are dedicated to the game.”
“John has attended a few of our VIP camps, and every time I see him I am more convinced that he has the potential to have a strong career for us,” said Avery. “John is a very versatile player, plays comfortably with both feet, and has the qualities that I think will make for an excellent attacking fullback at our level. He is a tough and honest defender, is very intelligent with his possession decisions, and has the engine to get up and down the flanks. Traditionally, Minnesota has been very good to our university in terms of sending students to Valpo, and we are excited that John will be the third student-athlete from Minnesota on our 2013 soccer roster (joining Daniel Killen and Zane Wold, both from Brooklyn Park).”
Chong, a 5’11” dynamic midfielder, captained the Brighton Bulldogs to three consecutive district titles and vaulted them to third in the Michigan state rankings in 2012. As the leading scorer on his team, Chong earned All-Conference, All-County, All-District, All-Region, and All-State recognition during his senior season. Named a KLAA Scholar-Athlete in all four years of high school and a member of the National Honor Society, Chong’s accomplishments expand well beyond the soccer field. In his club career with the Grand Rapids Crew, he helped push his team into the Top 25 nationally and a strong showing at the Finals of the Disney Showcase. Chong will enroll in the College of Business upon his arrival on campus this August.
“I chose Valpo because it offers a competitive environment for the scholar-athlete,” Chong said. “I am excited to represent the University on and off the field by working hard every day in order to contribute to the program in any way I can.”
“Forrest has a great opportunity in front of him with us because I really like all of the things he brings to the table,” said Avery. “He is, first and foremost, a very talented soccer player. He has a well-rounded game that allows him to be effective from a variety of positions. He is clean and simple on the ball, hard-working and determined off the ball, and he is one of those players that has the potential to fit right in becausehe is a great connecting player. We’ve gotten to know Forrest very well through our VIP camps, and he is a very thoughtful and mature young man. These qualities show up in everything he does, including in how he plays.”
Klett, a 6’1” striker, scored 57 goals in 44 career games for the Owls. As the team captain, he led his team to two consecutive sectional championships and the regional final. Named the winner of the Schuyler R. Wood Memorial Award winner for outstanding leadership, Klett was also recognized as the Muncie Star Press Boys Soccer Player of the Year. In his tenure with Carmel United Elite 95, he provided the attacking presence to propel them to a 2011 state title and to the finals of the 2011 Disney Showcase. Upon arrival to Valpo in August, he plans on majoring in exercise science to pursue a career in physical therapy.
“I chose to attend Valpo because of the atmosphere that both the school and soccer program provide,” Klett said. “The coaches, professors, and counselors make you feel like you are being accepted into a new family. I don’t think you could find a better staff at any other college. I am excited to be a part of a program that has the talent to routinely compete for a spot in the national tournament and to win an NCAA Championship.”
“Kevin is a very exciting prospect for us because as successful as he has been to date with his soccer, I am convinced his best days are still ahead of him,” said Avery. “He’s a young player that exudes potential, and if all the pieces come together for him and he keeps developing, he could really have an impact on our program. As a player, Kevin is a very fluid athlete and plays with great composure and control. He has the ability to score goals, which is very exciting, but he showed us at our VIP camp that he also is a talented passer of the ball and can create as many chances for his teammates as the ones he finishes himself.”
Kitchell, a two-time First Team All-WVC selection, was also twice named team MVP for the Evergreens, and is believed to be the first Division I commitment in the history of his high school soccer program. At the club level, Kitchell has spent time with both MC United and Everton FC of Wisconsin. Also a standout in track and field, Kitchell brings significant athleticism to the Crusader’s goalkeeper position.
“I chose Valpo because it’s a fantastic school that has everything I am looking for,” Kitchell said. “I am close to family, the education is great, and I get to play D-I soccer under a wonderful coaching staff and among top notch guys.”
“My assistant coach, Jeff Oleck, does a wonderful job coaching and mentoring our goalkeepers - Jeff had the chance to work with Nate at Stan Anderson’s Camp Shutout and was very impressed with Nate’s potential,” said Avery. “Nate does not have some of the experiences that a high-level club player might bring to a program – mostly due to geography and being from a smaller town in central Wisconsin - but he does have athleticism that is off the charts and his upside is very exciting. There are very few under-the-radar top players in this day and age, but in some ways we feel like we might have found one in Nate.”
Peterson, the 6’4” captain of the Friars, has compiled a long list of accolades in his tenure at Fenwick. In 2011, Peterson guided his team to the Illinois 2A Regional Championship. This past season, Peterson again guided his squad to both a Sectional and Regional Championship while being named to the Illinois 3A All-Sectional Team, the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area Second Team, and the Chicago Catholic League First Team. A member of United Soccer Academy in Chicago, Jacob plans on majoring in business or engineering upon his enrollment at Valpo.
“I chose Valpo because of the strong feeling of community and values that matched my own,” Peterson said. “I was looking for a college that balanced athletic and academic opportunities and I found that balance at Valpo. I look forward to representing the Crusaders in the fall of 2013.”
“Jacob is another player that we got to know through our VIP camp program,” Avery said. “He’s a big guy, and you notice that right away about him, but you also notice right away that he moves very well and has quickness that belies his size.”
“These two goalkeeper additions give us much needed depth at the position,” Avery continued. “We are excited to see the competition between these two and our two returning goalkeepers play out in preseason, because we know that the player that wins the job will be battle tested. Replacing Kyle Zobeck in the goal is a tough task for anyone, but I think we have terrific players that are ready to step up that challenge.”
Velasquez, a 5’8” native of Albuquerque, N.M., most recently played with Lincoln College in Illinois, where he was named Freshman of the Year in 2011 and twice recognized as a NJCAA First Team All-Region standout. Prior to his tenure at Lincoln College, Velasquez spent one season at the University of New Mexico, where he used a redshirt year in 2010. In his club career, Velasquez played for New Mexico Elite FC Gladiators, which was six-time state champions, two-time regional finalists, and two-time Disney Showcase Champions. Due to his success at the club and high school levels, Velasquez was called in to the U17 U.S. National Team Residency Camp in 2008.
“Julio is a very talented player who has always excelled on the field,” said Avery. “The game seems to come easy for him because he is very technical, versatile, and has a high soccer IQ. What has impressed us the most so far is that he has also come to us with a great blend of quiet confidence and humility. Since we began training in January he has been one of our hardest workers, and he has shown a personal maturity that I think is going to set him up for a very successful run here at Valpo. He has had some great experiences as a youth player and in the time he spent at UNM and Lincoln. I think he is ready to put all the pieces of his soccer career together for his final two years at Valparaiso.”
“I chose Valpo because of the success they have on and off the field,” said Velasquez. “They also have a great coaching staff which is willing to help me achieve my maximum potential."