Vaughan Soccer Club announced on Wednesday that ten of their League1 2015 men's players have accepted scholarships to NCAA DI schools for the 2016 school year.
The list includes Luka Milidragovic (Holy Cross University); Dequan and Khalil Thomas (Houston Baptist University); Liam McQueenie, Adam Giorgio, Nyall Higgins (Oakland University); Massimo Ferrin (University of Alabama/ Birmingham); Alistair Johnson (St. John's University); Tommy Bielanski (Cleveland State); Jared Brown (Florida Gulf Coast University).
A bumper crop of talent, the players represent an established program within the York region club, helmed by Patrice Gheisar and aimed at the final development stages of the individual athlete, and team dynamics, in preparation for a future at the elite levels of the game.
"It's an amateur adult high performance program, and they are immersed right from the stage of 16 or 17," said Gheisar.
"16 year olds are usually playing OSL U21, and some degree of Provincial Elite and League1, but all of our group train together," he explained.
"We know the standard they need to meet to get into NCAA programs, and right away we put them into an atmosphere that they need to grow. They are not just playing with their own age, but also with aspiring and ex-pros that we have in our League1 program."
"Basically, we put them into the program that is conducive to their developmental needs as individuals. The program is nurturing, developmental, and holds the players to the standard and level they need to maintain."
Playing across a variety of levels put the young players to the test, and judging by the results - they emerged with flying colours. The group at large won the OSL U21 Provincial Elite division, placed second in the OSL Provincial Elite men's division, took third in the League1 Ontario 2015 table, and went undefeated to win the prestigious 2015 Disney Soccer Showcase.
"As a whole, this year was a massive transitional year for them because of the situations they were put into - they were allowed to fail, be themselves, and grow," explained Gheisar.
"I think the group became more special as they realized they are talented and can compete at our highest levels. I made it very meaningful for them, and put them into difficult situations that are going to help them over their careers at the top level," Gheisar added.
"I held them to a high standard mentally, tactically, technically and ensured they have the discipline of a daily training regimen."
"It wasn't always comfortable, and it wasn't a youth environment where they could get away with bad habits. It was a proper environment where they learned to be successful as a group due to the situations they were put in."