by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Four-year colleges and universities are finding a soccer bonanza at Kansas City Kansas Community College
Eight Blue Devils will be continuing their soccer careers including three at the highest level, NCAA Division I. That’s the most ever for the program directed by head coach Ruben Rodriguez and assistant Burke Slusher.
Headed for NCAA DI universities are Reed Axthelm, a sophomore mid-fielder from Riverton, Wyoming, who will compete for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; Gustavo Palmieri, a sophomore defender from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona; and Justin Hynes, a freshman defender from Bishops Stortford, England, University of South Carolina Upstate at Spartanburg.
Ethan Pfeifer, a sophomore defender from Wichita Maize, and Fabian Keiblinger, a freshman goalkeeper from Sitzenberg-Reidling, Austria, have signed with NCAA Division II universities, Pfeifer at Rockhurst and Keiblinger at Spring Hill in Mobile, Alabama.
Three sophomores have been recruited by NAIA universities – forward Guilherme Grave, Oklahoma City University; mid-fielder Hector Valles of Valencia, Spain, Mid-American Christian University in Oklahoma City; and mid-fielder Bruno Rovares of Sao Paulo, Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio. Grave played the 2016 and 2017 seasons at KCKCC and served as team manager the past season while completing his degree requirements.
That so many Blue Devils were recruited (only nine sophomores on the 2018 squad) is not by accident. The 2017 team qualified for the NJCAA DI national tournament for the first time in KCKCC history and the 2018 team led by Palmieri was named an All-America Academic team by the NJCAA. Boasting a 3.82 grade point average, Palmieri was named to the All-American Academic second team.
“I think our past success is a factor but the emphasis we put on academics is also a big reason why higher institutions are taking a look at our program,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’ve developed a good reputation of developing high quality student athletes and built a trust among schools actively recruiting our student athletes.”
There’s also emphasis on exposing Blue Devil players to four-year programs.
“We only play scrimmage games against four-year schools in the spring and fall pre-season,” Slusher said. The Blue Devils had scrimmages against five area colleges last season – Rockhurst, Benedictine, Park, Baker and William Jewell. Mid-America Nazarene is being added and “We’d love to schedule UMKC,” Slusher said.
NJCAA allows four playing dates in the spring and 22 in the fall.
“We’ve added some community colleges to our schedule this fall,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be a tough schedule but I expect we’ll have even more players recruited this coming year.”