Men's Soccer: Mountaineers Add Seven

  • By Grant Dovey
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  • February 08, 2012 02:43 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU men’s soccer coach Marlon LeBlanc has announced the addition of seven student-athletes for the 2012 season.

Haydon Bennett (Chesterfield, Va.), Ryan Cain (Wellington, New Zealand), Zak Leedom (Dublin, Ohio), Jamie Merriam (Gaithersburg, Md.), Alessandro Mion (Miami, Fla.), Chris Spates (Prince George, Va.) and Kyle Underwood (Aledo, Texas), join Nick Raskasky, who enrolled at WVU in January. LeBlanc also is expecting to add more student-athletes to the class before the start of the 2012 season.

“This is a great group from top to bottom, and forget the fact that there are multiple All-Americans and all-states, this is a good group of guys who are excellent students with high character,” LeBlanc says. “They are coming in to complement a very experienced team for 2012 and we think that is exactly what they are going to be able to do. The best part about it is that we are not done yet, and will have a few more additions to the group.”

Bennett will join the Mountaineer back line after playing four seasons for coach Ihor Dotsenko of the Richmond Kickers Academy. Bennett has started all 16 games so far in the 2011-12 season and has played in 51 career games, starting 46 with the club. During that time he has scored one goal. Bennett also was selected to the All-Star VCCL Dallas Cup XXIX team during the 2008 season. As a member of the Super Y program from 2006-08, Bennett participated in the 2007 Cerdanya Cup in Spain.

“Haydon is a player from the collegiate prep academy, and he has WVU in his blood as he is not the first Bennett to attend WVU,” LeBlanc says. “He is a quality prospect that will flourish here. He is a big kid, excellent defender, passes well out of the back and is tremendous in the air. He will come in immediately and have an opportunity to play for a spot on the field.”

A native of Chesterfield, Va., Bennett has been a four-year starter and three-year captain for Clover Hill High. Bennett’s accomplishments include being named a two-time first team all-district and all-academic member, as well as a member of the All-Central Region second team in 2011 and honorable mention choice in 2010.

Cain comes from New Zealand where he plays for Team Wellington in the New Zealand Football Championship league. He was also represented New Zealand in the 2011 U20 FIFA World Cup, playing in all three matches and starting against Cameroon and Uruguay. Cain was previously recognized at the New Zealand U19 tournament with selection to the all-tournament team.

“We tracked Ryan for the last couple of years and we are glad that he is going to be here this fall,” LeBlanc comments. “Ryan has emerged onto the scene over the last few years in regards to what he has done. We did pretty well with our last New Zealander in Andy Bevin, and we think Ryan is of the same mold who is capable of scoring goals.”

The forward was a member of all-age group, all-region and all-conference each season at Paraparaumu Beach School, where he led the team in goals each season and set the record for career goals with 80, while registering 40 assists. He also finished his 80-game high school career as a two-time region/conference player of the year, and led the school to Premier League competition for the first time in school history in 2009, and once again in 2010. Cain was a member of the New Zealand Secondary Schools U19 Touring Squad to the United Kingdom in 2008 and 2009, while serving as the top goal scorer in both tours. Cain also scored the game-winning goal against the U18 Republic of Ireland National Team.

A native of Dublin, Ohio, Leedom is currently playing for coach Billy Thompson with the Columbus Crew Academy, where he has played in all three matches of the 2011-12 season. Leedom played the previous two seasons with the team, netting two goals in 13 starts in 2010-11 and playing in eight games in 2009-10.

“Zak is a top player coming out of Ohio as a first team all-state member and playing for the Columbus Crew Academy,” LeBlanc states. “His game is a mature one. He is a two-way midfielder, an honest player and gets after things in the midfield. He will tackle well and is very good at getting forward as he has scored some big goals for both club and high school. Zak will be a nice complement to our midfield as he fits in perfectly with our system.”

Leedom set the single season goals record, as well as finishing with 28 goals and 34 assists as a four-year starter at Dublin Coffman High. The two-year captain was first team all-state, all-district and all-region as a senior, leading the team to its first regional final in school history and scoring the game-winning goal. He was also named the Central Ohio All-Star Game MVP. Leedom previously played for Team Ohio FC, serving as a four-year captain and was a member of the ODP Region II team.

Merriam joins the midfield after playing for coach Kris Hazzard with Potomac Academy, starting all four games and leading the team with two goals thus far in 2011-12. Last season, Merriam played in 28 games, starting 26 and leading the team with 11 goals, while playing in 16 games in 2009-10 with two goals.

“Jamie is a tremendous young prospect for us. He is extremely athletic, has very good feet, passes well, defends well and can score goals coming out of midfield,” LeBlanc says. “He has an aggressive personality that lends itself well to the type of environment that we have and what we go into on the road. Jamie is one of those guys who could potentially be the sleeper of the class.”

The Gaithersburg, Md., native, has been a two-time captain at Colonel Zadok Magruder High. Merriam was named a 2011 first team all-state member, as well as being named a 2010 finalist for the Montgomery Player of the Year. Merriam finished his career with 32 goals and 46 assists. He previously played for the Olney Rangers, winning the state championship in 2007, as well as winning the Disney Showcase from 2008-09 on the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Merriam played with current Mountaineer Nick Breitsameter for Potomac Academy.

A native of Miami, Mion was most recently a defender on the U17 United States Men’s National Team under the direction of Wilmer Cabrera. Mion earned one international appearance in 2011, coming on as a substitute and playing 33 minutes against Mexico. In 2010, Mion earned eight caps for the squad, starting seven, after joining the Residency Program for the Spring 2010 semester. He also participated in the Residency Program in 2009, as well as partaking in two national team mini-camps. Mion was also named to the U17 U.S. National Team for the 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup in Mexico.

“We’re excited to add a player of Alessandro’s quality to the roster,” LeBlanc says. “We’re equally as excited to have a player from Miami come to Morgantown. We think that Allesandro’s experience with the U17 National Team, and being so well coached by Luchi Gonzalez, that he is going to be able to step right in to big time Division I play and make the transition with ease.”

As a player for former Hermann Trophy winner Luchi Gonzalez with Kendall SC, Mion played in 16 games in 2009-10, starting all 16 and recording four goals. Mion helped lead the 2008 and 2009 teams to Florida State Cup championships, as well as serving as a USSF Academy Full Time player in 2009-10 and a Development player in 2008-09. Mion played for the Florida ODP and Region 3 teams from 2007-08, while also playing for the Disney Showcase Region 3 team.

Mion has also been playing for Gonzalez at Gulliver Prep, the No. 8 ranked team in Florida, where he won the 2012 district championship. Mion previously played for Columbus High, registering eight goals and 12 assists as a freshman and being named to the 2009 Miami Herald All-Dade First Team. Mion is a two-time selection to the NSCAA Boys Youth All-America team.

Mion is a four-star prospect according to TopDrawerSoccer.com and is ranked No. 33 for 2012 men’s recruits, as well as being ranked No. 30 on both the ESPN RISE HS 150 and CollegeSoccerNews.com lists. Mion also was named one of the top young U.S. men’s soccer players by ESPN RISE.

Spates joins the Mountaineers from Prince George, Va., and plays for the Richmond Kickers Academy under Dotsenko. Spates has started 38 of 41 games on the back line over the last two seasons and 16 of 17 matches this season.

“Chris is another player that we saw in our collegiate prep academy and is a left-footed defender who is very similar to Eric Schoenle in regards to their styles, build and ability in the air,” LeBlanc comments. “Chris is a bit under the radar, much like Eric, but we also think he has the potential to be as good and step in and contribute right away for us.”

As a four-year starter and three-year captain at Prince George High, Spates was named to the all-district team three times. Spates was named a member of the 2011 all-region squad and is a four-time all-academic team member.

A native of Aledo, Texas, Underwood is one of the fastest athletes in the state and was named a 2011 NSCAA High School All-American, 2011 NSCAA first team all-region and the 2011 NSCAA Texas state High School Player of the Year for Aledo High. Currently, Underwood has five goals and two assists in 2012 and is in his fourth season as a starter. The 2011 District 12-4A MVP was also named an ESPN RISE Texas All-Star and is a three-time first team All-District 12-4A member. As a track athlete, Underwood is a 2011 AAU National Qualifer in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter races.

“We identified Kyle at our collegiate prep academy here, and he is a goal scorer,” LeBlanc says. “He is a big, strong forward that is one of the fastest players in the country as a top level sprinter. Kyle can play soccer and more importantly he can score goals. You can’t teach speed and athleticism, and when you combine that with the ability to be a finisher, we think Kyle will be very good in this program.”

Underwood started the fall playing for U18 Dallas Texans Academy, but is now a member of Fort Worth FC. Underwood previously was a starting forward and leading scorer for Solar Red from 2007-09 and led the U16 team as a regional semifinalist, Premiere League champion, National League qualifier, NTX State Cup champion, CCSAI Grand Champion, Dallas Cup quarterfinalist and Dr. Pepper Fair Play champion.