Deciding which college to attend is easily the biggest decision that a 17-18-year old has to make, so many factors go into making this decision, and it’s no wonder “National Signing Day” has become a defacto holiday for some collegiate sports.
Several members of the Quakes Academy will soon begin that journey, as college commitments were made in the past few weeks by some of the leaders of the program. All told, 11 members of the Academy signed letters of intent earlier this month, with a few others giving unofficial commitments. Bryce Clark, Luke Dennison, Josh Totte, Josh Morton and Alex Liua were kind enough to share the story of their own journeys throughout the selection process. From North Carolina to Connecticut, Texas to Santa Barbara, members of the Quakes Academy will be taking their talents to all corners of the country.
Clark, captain of the U18 squad, will be suiting up for the Southern Methodist University Mustangs next season and couldn’t be more excited about it. For Clark, however, this process was nowhere near a slam dunk.
“The process was like a roller coaster," he said. "I was shut down from some schools and put on the back burner by others.”
Clark, a Los Gatos native, was also on Stanford’s radar going into the process, but SMU became the frontrunner for a handful of reasons. “I was not opposed to staying in California, but Palo Alto was just a little too close to home. Dallas, by location alone, will be a culture shock for me. It's a challenge that I welcome with open heart and mind.”
Like many young men of his ilk, Clark wanted to be a part of an athletic program that was on the big stage in many sports, including football and basketball. “I’m a big believer in school spirit and love the atmosphere of attending sporting events. (SMU's) basketball team is a little under the radar, but still on track to make the field for March Madness this season.”
Clark also got that warm fuzzy feeling about SMU following a conversation he had with the coaching staff early in the process. “When they told me how impressed they were with some of the characteristics that usually go unnoticed, I truly felt valued.”
The final decision came after a visit to campus following a tournament in Texas last year. “I fell in love with the campus; great buildings, a huge grass quad, trees all over; it is a beautiful place.” As far as the soccer goes, SMU’s playing style suits Clark well and the level of competition is at the top of the totem pole. “SMU had a very tough schedule last year, playing 7 top-20 teams. The situation seems perfect for me to achieve my dreams both on the pitch, and off.”
Clark possesses a 4.3 grade point average and also a desire for some normalcy and a social life. “At SMU, I believe it is the best fit for me to accomplish all of my collegiate goals; study hard, play Division 1 soccer, and still have a social life.” SMU recognized the quality person that Clark already is and has the potential to become by naming him a Founder Scholar and inviting him to participate in the Business Direct Program as well as the Hilltop NEW Century Scholars Program. “I feel that SMU provides a great environment for me to succeed in my pursuit of a challenging career in academics as well as soccer," he said.
Dennison, a dynamic goalkeeper for the Quakes, got a phone call that helped him to choose Chico State as his destination in the fall. “When Coach (Felipe) Restrepo contacted me, it made my decision much easier," he said. "Hearing the coach tell me that, with some hard work, there is a chance to start as a freshman really got me excited.”
After conferring with his family and Quakes coaches, Luke took a trip up north to visit the campus and it was there that his decision was finalized. “After my visit I was very excited. Chico has an amazing vibe and beautiful environment, both on campus and around it.”
Dennison is eager to get his collegiate career under way. “I’m really going to work hard to try and earn that starting spot," he said. "It would be a huge honor to be the starting goalkeeper in my first season. I know that Coach Restrepo can really help me to grow as a player and a person and I hope that with his assistance I can expand my game to the point of getting drafted.”
If soccer isn’t in his long term future, he has his sights set on another profession, sports journalism. “I intend to major in communications and public affairs with the hopes of parlaying that into a broadcasting career. No matter what happens, I’m excited to begin the next chapter in my life. I hope to have an amazing four years there.”
Morton won’t be straying too far from the nest, either, as he has chosen to follow fellow Quakes Academy alum Austin Black to Strawberry Canyon and play for the California Golden Bears next fall. “I chose U.C. Berkeley due to their very prestigious soccer program and the opportunity to get a world class education," he said.
Morton said it didn’t take much for him to come to his decision. “I fell in love with the campus when I visited and, when the offer came to play for Cal in the following days, I couldn’t agree to it fast enough! I’d visited several other schools but there was no way I could say no. Cal was by far the best fit for me.”
Morton has more on his mind than just soccer, however; he intends to major in business with a minor in psychology in his time in Berkeley. “I hope to earn a degree from one of the best schools in America as well as progress in my soccer career," he said.
The Golden Bears had a very successful campaign last year, finishing as one of the top programs in the land and sending four players to the MLS. “I hope to help continue Cal’s success on the pitch, with four guys moving on to the MLS it opens up some spots on the roster for younger players like me to succeed immediately,” Morton said. “Seeing Cal send four guys to the MLS gives me the confidence that if I work hard enough and do everything right, I will have that same opportunity when I’m done here.”
When you think Yale, you don’t necessarily think soccer powerhouse, but most Yale attendees have bigger things on their mind. Josh Totte is no exception. “I’m not completely sure what my major will be, but I’m leaning towards global affairs with my focus being in international security," he said.
Totte also feels great about the soccer program at Yale as well, saying, "The coaching staff there is fantastic and they play a possession-oriented style of soccer that fits me well and I think is the best in the Ivy League.”
Yale has been on Totte’s radar for the last few years and, when he learned that the feeling was mutual, his decision was pretty simple. “Yale has always been my dream school but when I found out that they were interested in me as well, I was ecstatic, to say the least. Their academics are arguably the best in the world and their soccer program is rich in history and tradition.”
Totte committed to Head Coach Brian Tompkins in the summer before his junior year and when he visited the campus, he was 100% in. “On my visit to the campus of Yale I fell in love...the scenery is beautiful and the student body is second to none.”
Liua couldn’t be any more excited about his future at the University of California Santa Barbara. “The atmosphere there is unlike any college soccer environment in the country," he said.
Liua explained the major factors in his decision: “UCSB has an incredibly exciting program; the coaching staff is fantastic, my fellow incoming freshman class is stacked with phenomenal talent, and I really feel a connection with the university already.”
While in Santa Barbara, Liua intends to pursue a degree in communications. "Their communications department is excellent at UCSB and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.” Economics also peaks his interest and could be a potential minor for Liua moving forward. “Combining THAT program with such a gorgeous location, I simply fell in love with UCSB. I could not be any more excited to continue both my soccer and academic careers at such a distinguished university.”
Complete list of this year's commitments:
Bernardo Carabelli - Stetson University
Bryce Clark - Southern Methodist
Luke Dennison - Cal State University Chico
Rodrigo Gonzalez - Yavapai College
Alex Liua - UC Santa Barbara
Max Mirner - Saint Mary’s
Josh Morton - California
Dalton Pando - UC Santa Barbara
Dominic Scotti - Wake Forest
Josh Totte - Yale
Juan Velasquez - Iowa Western