Story courtesy: LeTourneau Athletics
LeTourneau University men’s soccer coach Collin Cone announced the signing of 16 players for the 2020 recruiting class.
“I believe this recruiting class is our strongest yet, and I think these guys will make our program better, academically and on the pitch,” Cone said. “These guys are joining a strong returning group that tasted some success the past two seasons, but we all feel there is more we can do.”
The YellowJackets added goalkeepers Kolton Johnson and Ethan Aiken, defenders Blake Andros, Zach Aitken, Ethan Anderson, Beau Weber and Malajah Fleeks, midfielders Mark Villanueva, Oscar Vargas, Talon Benavidez, Angel Granados and Emad Mohamed, and forwards Daniel Cubides, Noah Garcia, Jesus Galvan and Neil Ayvar.
“Going into my third season at LeTourneau is exciting and something I am really looking forward to,” Cone said. “My first season at LETU, we brought in 16 new guys, in 2019 we brought in 27, and this year we are bringing in 16. In every recruiting class, the quality has gotten better. This has showed up on the field as our overall team records have improved. We have competed in the conference tournament both seasons, we have gotten stronger academically, and our program has become tighter. We are a family.”
Johnson was an all-state selection at Edmond North High School in Edmond, Oklahoma. He played for two club state champion teams. Aiken is a four-year scholar-athlete and three-time all-league selection. He played for two Division 5 state runner-up and sectional championship teams at Hilmar High School in Hilmar, California.
“Kolton is one of the first players I identified when I became the coach at LeTourneau,” Cone said. “I noticed him at an FC Dallas combine, and liked him the minute I saw him. Ethan is a great young man that will excel at LeTourneau. He exemplifies what I am looking for in a soccer player as he loves Jesus, he cares for his teammates, academics are an obvious priority, and he is built to be a presence in goal.”
Andros is a transfer from Ouachita Baptist who hails from Frisco, Texas. Aitken is a first team all-district selection out of Liberty Christian High School in Highland Village, Texas. Anderson was a second team all-district choice in 2019 and 2020 from Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Texas. He was an all-conference selection for Borussia Dortmund in the Elite Clubs National League. Weber was an academic all-state selection this year, and two-time first team all-district choice and two-time honorable mention all-district pick at Cecilia High School in Breaux Bridge, La. In 2017, his team took first place in the Gulf States Premier League. A year later, his team was the runner-up in the state cup. Fleeks was a First Team All-District 6-6A selection at Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas. He was selected as the district’s co-Defensive Player of the Year this season.
“Blake is a young man that I recruited in 2019, didn’t get him, and now is transferring to LeTourneau from NCAA DII Ouchita Baptist,” Cone said. “I’m excited to finally get to coach Blake as I love his competitive drive, his work rate, his strong defensive presence and his willingness to attack from an outside back position. Zach is someone who I look forward to coaching because he is extremely coachable. I think Zach’s best years of soccer are ahead of him, and I look forward to playing a small part of that. Ethan is going to be a tough player for teams to play against. He brings a lot of size to our back line, and brings a wealth of experience from playing in the ECNL. Beau is the ultimate competitor. Beau is a fighter, he never quits, he never gives up, and is dependable. He is going to do whatever it takes to defend, and will bring a ruthless quality to our back line. Malajah is a hungry defender who wants to win. This quality is something that will push everyone around him to raise their game. He is a no-nonsense defender that can put in a hard tackle, wins balls in the air, and make good decisions on the ball.”
Villanueva was a District 12-6A Honorable Mention in 2000. He played on three district championship teams at Belton High School in Belton, Texas. Vargas is a two-time District 12-6A Defensive Most Valuable Player. He is a three-time first team all-district pick, was a second team all-district in 2017, three-time academic all-district selection and academic all-state honoree this year. He played for three district championship teams at Belton High School. Benavidez may also be featured in a defender role. He hails from Frisco High School in Frisco, Texas. Granados, of Wylie, Texas, prepped at Plano East Senior High School. Mohamed was a First Team All-District 6-6A selection this year. He earned second team all-district honors as a junior, and was an honorable mention pick as a sophomore. A native of Irving, Texas, his MacArthur High School team won the district championship in 2019. He was on the academic honor roll, and graduated in the top 10 percent of his class.
“Mark cares about what he’s doing, and cares about the product he puts on the pitch,” Cone said. “He sees the game well, and is willing to do the work to help his team be successful. Oscar is going to be a special player in our midfield. He is a tenacious and hungry CDM that is willing to put in a tackle. He also has the quality to go forward and pull strings from the midfield. He can cover a lot of ground, is great 1v1, can pull the trigger, and is going to be an exciting addition to our program. Talon is a great young man that will fit in well with our family here at LeTourneau. Talon brings some versatility to our program as he can play in the midfield or even as an outside back, and this is a big positive. Angel is a strong and tall player that will bring a presence to the midfield. He has a strong soccer IQ, and sees the game well. Emad is a bright player who I really enjoyed watching the first time I saw him play. He is a strong midfielder with a defensive mind, but also dangerous going forward. I have seen Emad score some absolute rippers from distance, and he is going to be an issue for other teams.
Cubides, a Cali, Colombia native, is a transfer from Lake Superior College (Minn.), where in 2016 his team was the National Junior College Athletic Association runner-up. A year later, he played on a team that won the conference regular season championship. Garcia, of Arlington, Texas, was a First Team All-District 5-5A choice at Juan Seguin High School this year. He was the district’s Offensive Player of the Year and team’s MVP with 18 goals this season. Galvan was an all-state selection at Longview High School this year. He was named the District 11-6A Offensive Player of the Year, and is the Lobos’ all-time leading goal scorer with 69 goals, including 27 this year. He earned honorable mention all-state honors as a junior, and was a first team all-region pick in 2018. Ayvar is a product of Bowie High School in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“Daniel is an older and more mature player who has college experience under his belt,” Cone said. “He has good speed and good size that will add to our front line. He has the quality to put the ball in the back of the net, which will help bolster our offense. Noah first caught my eye when he scored a great goal as a club player against our reserve team in 2019. His work rate is unmatched, and his ability to play up top or even in the midfield are a great asset. Jesus is a dangerous player 1v1, and someone you don’t want have in your 18-yard box as he will punish teams. I really think Chuy can be a big-time player in the American Southwest Conference, especially if he continues to work hard, stays coachable and continues to score like he did in high school. Neil is a quality player that came onto my radar late. He is going to fit in well at LeTourneau as he loves the Lord, wants to be pushed as a player, and is eager to be successful in every area of his life. Neil is a tireless player that works hard in the midfield, and is willing to cover a lot of ground.”
The YellowJackets went 7-10-2 overall, 5-6 in the ASC last season with a trip to the conference quarterfinals.
“Last year, we felt like our season came to an end a little too soon, and the returners are hungry to accomplish more in 2020,” Cone said. “The incoming players will play a big part in helping us reach some goals our team has set. The ultimate goal is for our players to grow into faithful husbands and fathers who love Jesus, but winning some football games along the way is important, too. The 2020 season is going to be special, and I believe that this recruiting class is really going to help us.”