RICHMOND – After competing in their second consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship in 2016, and third of the last five seasons, the VCU Men’s Soccer program and Head Coach Dave Giffard are excited to announce their nine-player recruiting class for the upcoming 2017 season. The class features four products from Virginia and one from New York, while also bringing in four international players as well. 

"The staff and I are excited to announce this group of nine incoming players for 2017,” said Giffard.  “This group helps to answer some key needs for us after losing a large nine-member senior class last fall." 

With the departure of All-Atlantic 10 Conference honorees Dakota Barnathan and Jorge Herranz among nine graduating seniors, the Black & Gold find themselves in a unique situation. The Rams will be bringing in multiple talented athletes that will supplement the losses, keeping VCU as one of the top contenders in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Rams look to make their return back to the A-10 Championship, and return to the NCAA Tournament. 

Let’s meet the recruits for the 2017 class, each featuring quotes from Head Coach Dave Giffard:

Brandon Bonilla - 6'1" 165lbs Midfielder (San Jose, Costa Rica) (Belen Reserves)
A Costa Rica product, Bonilla is a wide player who led the Belen reserve team in scoring. His 6’1, 165 lb frame will be a force in the midfield for the Black & Gold. 

"Brandon is the next in a long line of Costa Rican players here at VCU.  His best positions are probably as an inverted 7 or 11 which is very much the way we play a 4-2-3-1. He has unique qualities in that he is very good in combination, but can also strike a ball very well from distance and is a bit sturdier than the typical incoming freshman.  He has been competing and playing at a very high level in Costa Rica with FC Belen."

Ulrik Edvardsen- 6'3" 175lbs Center Back (Bergen, Norway) (SK Brann)
Edvardsen comes to Richmond with a wealth of international experience on his resume. He is a member of the Norwegian U-18 National Team, as well as Captain of SK Brann U-19 team and reserve team. If that wasn’t enough, Edvardsen also travelled with SK Brann First Team for the 2016 Preseason and sat on the bench for several league games.

"Ulrik is a prototypical defender and was very close to making it at SK Brann who qualified for the Europa League this past season.  He has a good build and is good at building from the back. He's been the captain of every team he has been a part of and will add size, skill and leadership to our group right away." 

Bruk Fekade- 5'11" 150lbs Midfielder (Loudon, Va.) (Loudon Soccer Club)
Fekade’s Loudon Soccer Club team was 2016 National Runners-Up, a team which he was team captain. One of VCU’s Virginia products, Fekade will find his spot in the midfield.

"Bruk is a defensive midfielder with a ton of intangibles.  He is technical enough to play in that role for us, covers ground and like so many others in this class, has been the captain of every team he has been a part of."

Jared Greene 6'2" 155 lb Forward (Virginia Beach, Va.) (Beach FC/Kellam HS)
Another product from the commonwealth, Greene was a member of Region 1 ODP and Beach FC for club. A product of Kellam High School, Greene earned All-Conference, All-Region, and All-State Honors all during his time at Kellam. 

"Jared has all the physical tools to be an MLS 9.  He has a lot of work to do and it's going to be a big step up in the demands of the game for him, but he has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the college game.  Our staff is very excited to work with him and see if he can do the things he needs to do in order to make that potential a reality."
Jared Mazzola 6'1" 175lbs Goalkeeper (Katonah, NY) (FC Westchester/Somers High School)
The lone goalkeeper of the class, Mazzola was also a member of Region 1 ODP along with Jared Greene. He was a U.S. Soccer Market Training Center Invitee, and has made multiple trips to play in Europe.

"Jared is a goalkeeper who is very good with his feet and has the training ethic and drive to make himself into a very good college goalkeeper.  We are excited to add a young goalkeeper like Jared to our corps of goalkeepers on the team and to get him here into the competition this fall."

Andy Mensah 5'9" 170 lb Forward (Springfield, Va.)(SYC Strikers, Lee High School)
Mensah is a proven scorer, as he put up 28 goals in 2016 for his SYC Club team. He played home year of high school soccer in 2016, which earned him First Team All-District honors, as well as First Team All-Region. Mensah also earned Second Team All-State honors as well.

"Andy is a bulldog. He's a back to goal striker who works tirelessly and is a strong leader on and off the field.  He is only starting to scratch the surface of how successful he could be.  If he takes coaching well and can continue to improve and grow into the role as a striker, he could have a good career for us and have an opportunity to play at the next level." 

Peter Pearson, 5'7" 155lb Midfielder (Virginia Beach, Va.)(Virginia, Cape Henry)
A native of Virginia Beach, VA, Pearson is a transfer from the University of Virginia who joined the team in January.  He was a three-year letter winner for the Cavaliers from 2014-2016 and was named a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll in 2015. Prior to enrolling at UVA, he was a member of Beach FC and Cape Henry, and Gatorade POY for the state of Virginia in 2013-2014. Perason collected four All-State honors, and 4-year captain of the Region 1 ODP team, and was the captain of Beach FC and Cape Henry. He was also named the 85th best player in America by as a senior in HS.

"Peter was one of the most sought after recruits from the state of Virginia during my time here at VCU.  He is the epitome of a student athlete.  He applies himself on the field, in the classroom and is a natural born leader and winner.  We couldn't be more thrilled to have Peter join us this spring and his presence has already been felt in a very small amount of time."

Oquin Robinson 6'2" 185lbs Midfielder (Bull Bay, Jamaica)(Harbor View, Jamaica College)
Robinson was a member of the same high school squad as fellow recruit Zeron Sewell. He played club soccer for Harbor View, winning a U17 Championship and U20 Semifinalist which he was a captain. For Jamaica College, he is a three-time Manning Cup Champion (2014-16), Oliver Shield Winner (2014-16), and Flow Cup Winner in 2014.

"Oquin is uncommon among Caribbean midfielders.  He likes to get on the ball and dictate the rhythm.  He has played most of his life as a #10 and then moved into the back of midfield with JC the last 2 years.  I think he can play any of the 3 roles in central midfield for us.  The last player we saw in Jamaica like Oquin was Romena Bowie who ended up having an amazing career for us.  I expect a similar style of player in Oquin. He is also a winner and has been the captain for all of the teams he has played for"  
Zeron Sewell, 6’2, 195lb Center Back (Morant Bay, Jamaica)
Sewell joined the Rams in January of 2017, making him eligible to play for the fall of 2017. Listed as a final addition to the 2016 class, he carries a hefty resume. Playing as a Center Back for VCU, Sewell was part of Jamaica College High School’s recent success in 2014 and 2015. He comes with multiple accolades, as a Manning Cup Champion (2014-15), Oliver Shield Champion (2014-15), BIGGA STETHS Cup Champion (2015), and Lime Super Cup Champion (2014). He was also named ISAA All-Manning Cup Team in 2015 and BIGGA STETHS Cup Best Defender.

"Zeron has plugged in with us this spring and has had an immediate impact in the back of the team.  He has a long way to go in order to reach his potential, but his ceiling is very high and if he continues to progress and keep himself hungry, his future in the game could be very bright."