Valparaiso University head men’s soccer coach Mike Avery announced today that four talented student-athletes will join the Crusader program for the 2010 campaign. The introduction of transfer students, Guy Shabtay and Lior Avisror, and high school seniors, Eppokrates Litos and Tom Serratore, kick off the announcement of the Valparaiso men’s soccer recruiting class for 2010, a group that will be unveiled in its entirety over the next few weeks.
“We are coming off a solid season in 2009, a season where a lot of hard work over the past two years started to bear some fruit in terms of success on the field,” said Avery. “Obviously, we want more, and we want to continue our trend of building into a nationally competitive side that is a realistic contender for a Horizon League title, and our goal of becoming a team capable of playing deep in the NCAA tournament. We know we have some work yet to do, but we are clearly making progress, and the players we have added to the fold in this recruiting class will definitely help us, both in short term and in the future.”
“We also have the benefit of sponsoring a reserve team, something that has been hugely beneficial to our overall soccer program. We had a few freshmen players last season, for example, that started as reserve players but ended the season as regulars on the first team,” said Avery. “The reserve team setup allows us to keep a slightly larger pool of players active through regular training and specific reserve team matches. We’ve created a real soccer culture on our campus because we now have a virtual army of engaged and excited soccer players. Some of this recruiting class will go straight to the first team, and others may head into the reserves, but all are important and all have the chance to really have a hand in our future success.”
Shabtay, a promising striker and native of Ramat-Gan, Israel (Blich H.S.), will transfer to Valparaiso from Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Ill. where he starred for two years under Pioneer coach David Spataru. Shabtay, an NJCAA All-Region honoree and two-time First Team All-Skyway Conference selection, was one of the top marksmen in the country at the NJCAA Division I level, scoring 29 goals in 28 games over his two seasons. During that time, the Pioneers earned an impressive 24-14-1 record on the pitch, the best two-year record in PSC program history. Shabtay began his soccer career as a youth player in his native Israel with SC Maccabbi Tel-Aviv, one of the leading clubs in the country. He later joined SC Bnei Yehuda and SC Ramat Ha'shaorn until he was drafted to a mandatory military service. Shabtay will have two years of eligibility remaining as a Crusader.
“Guy is a very dangerous attacker with a fantastic first touch and above average speed,” said Avery. “He is a bit older than most incoming players due to his military service in Israel, and his varied life experiences and playing background gives us a mature, poised, and focused player capable of stepping right in and helping a veteran team get where it wants to go. Guy is also a talented student with aspirations as an engineer, and a young man with great character, so he is an ideal fit for Valparaiso University and our soccer team.”
Shabtay will be joined by Prairie State teammate Avisror, a tough and seasoned defender and native of Yehud, Israel (Mekif Yehud H.S.). An All-Skyway Conference and NJCAA All-Region selection, Avisror was an anchor in the Pioneer defense in 2009 as a sophomore. Avisror started his college soccer career at NAIA member Colombia [Mo.] College before transferring to PSC, where he will earn his AA degree this summer. Avisror played for most of his youth with Hapoel Ramat Gan before moving at the age of 17 to Ramat Amidar, where his club was crowned league champion. Avisror also spent three years in the Israeli army before coming to the United States for college. Avisror will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Crusaders as he pursues his degree in international business.
“Lior is a smart and tough defender that adds maturity and versatility to our back line,” said Avery. “His positioning is very good, he uses his body well, he is strong in the air, and he distributes the ball cleanly with both feet. He is a good soccer player first and foremost, which we like in our defensive players, but he is also tough in the tackle and hard to beat. Lior has some natural leadership qualities on the field that are essential for an organized defense and his communication skills are outstanding. We have a strong group of defenders returning, including JP Lytle who sat out all of last year due to injury, so Lior’s addition gives our group great depth and a lot of options across the back.”
A local high school product joins the Valparaiso ranks with the addition of Litos, a forward and native of Saint John, Ind. (Lake Central H.S./Indiana Magic SC). Litos finished his senior year with 20 goals and five assists while helping to lead Coach Jereme Rainwater’s team to the IHSAA State Final Four. Litos raked in the awards following his senior year, earning a spot on the NSCAA High School All-American squad, as well as being named the Post-Tribune’s 2009 Player of the Year and being honored on the NWI Times 2009 All-Area team. Litos transferred to Lake Central from Chicago's Morgan Park Academy, where he scored 34 goals in 20 games as a junior and was a three-time All-Conference selection in the Independent School League. As a member of the Indiana Magic soccer club, Litos helped his club to 3 national indoor championships.
“Krates is an exciting pickup for us as he is one of the most naturally gifted soccer players to come out of Indiana this year,” said Avery. “His soccer instincts separate him from most youth players, and he has the athletic ability to pull off the creative things he imagines. As he steps up to another level in Division I soccer, Krates realizes he is going to have to become a little more active off the ball, and he needs to focus on becoming a better defender within the system we play. We will teach him those things because he is a good kid that is very eager to learn, and I am excited to see what he will look like as a player in a year or two because he has such a great starting point. I think it’s important that we land our share of the top local players, and this year I think we can proudly say we’ve done that with Eppokrates.”
Serratore, a native of Tinley Park, Ill. (Andrew H.S./Chicago Fire Academy), joins the Crusaders from the talent rich Chicago-land soccer scene, adding another top-level goalkeeper to an already impressive list of names at the position. A talented and experienced net-minder, Serratore will further enhance the Crusader depth in the net, which already includes two-time Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year Ryan Schwarz returning for his fifth year and 2008 Horizon League All-Newcomer selection Kyle Zobeck returning as a redshirt sophomore. As a member of the Chicago Magic development academy, Serratore won two club national championships, and won a third as a member of the Illinois ODP program. At Andrew High School, Serratore was a three-time All-Conference and All-Area Selection, as well as a three-time Academic All-Conference choice.
“Tom is a terrific addition to our program, and we are very excited about his decision to join us,” said Avery. “Coach Jeff Oleck has a very strong pool of goalkeepers to work with, and I know he will do a wonderful job developing Tom because Tom already has a lot of the tools necessary to be a top level goalkeeper. Tom is athletic, quick, technically very sound, and he is a terrific organizer and communicator. He plays in a great club environment with the Chicago Fire Academy under coach Sole Antonijevic (father of Valparaiso midfielder Stefan Antonijevic), and I know he will come in and make our whole group better with his effort and his personality.”