PHILADELPHIA - Four years ago, a group of freshmen joined the Penn men's soccer program and gained instant success with an Ivy League championship in the fall of 2008. This fall, a new group of players will head to University City looking to carry on the tradition of Penn Soccer as part of the Class of 2016.
Head coach Rudy Fuller will add seven players to his squad this fall, including four midfielders and three defenders in a group that comes from Pennsylvania, California, Georgia, North Carolina, and New York as well as London, England. One player has spent time with the U17 US National Team program while a second has played on England's U18 ISFA All-England team and five have participated in the US Soccer Developmental Academy.
"We are thrilled to welcome these seven young men to the Penn Soccer family," Fuller said. "All of them appreciate the program's rich history and tradition of success and are eager to make their own mark over the next four years."
Fuller went on to praise his assistant coach who spearheaded the recruiting efforts for the seven well-rounded student-athletes set to join the Red and Blue.
"Once again, my assistant Rob Irvine has shown why he is one of the top young coaches in the country," said the 15th-year head coach. "His impact as recruiting coordinator has been significant and this year's class is another fine example. This class contains some of the best student-athletes from around the world. We are bringing in players with National Team experience domestically and internationally, training experience with MLS First Teams and Reserve Teams, and high-level playing experience with some of the top Development Academy clubs nationwide."
Defender Griffin Heffner will join the Quakers from Wendell, N.C. after training with the US U17 Youth National Team in 2010. Playing for the US, he travelled to Central and South American on training trips.
Another American-born player with international training on his resume is midfielder Sam Engs from Lafayette, Calif. He spent time with the San Jose Earthquakes Developmental Academy program, accompanying the Earthquakes' MLS First Team to London in 2011. While in London, Engs trained with the Earthquakes alongside the Tottenheim Hotspurs' U18/Reserve team and saw action with the First Team in a friendly against Colchester United.
A London native who will make the trip Stateside for his collegiate soccer is midfielder Forrest Clancy. This past season, Clancy was selected to the U18 All-England ISFA team, which competed against the U18 schoolboy teams from Australia, Scotland and Wales in an international series.
One player who will not be travelling far to play his college soccer is Alex Murphy. The midfielder from Wallingford, Pa. attended Strath Haven High School and was selected to the Philadelphia Union Academy U17/18 team in 2011. He comes to Penn from the Penn Fusion Celtic club team.
The final midfielder primed to join the Quakers is James Rushton. A native of Atlanta who was born in England, Rushton played his Developmental Academy soccer with the Concorde Fire, winning a pair of state titles. At the high school level, Rushton was named ESPN Rise All-State this past season.
Henry Gager is a speedy defender who was a track and field standout at Rye High School in New York in addition to a conference-champion soccer player. He was All-League in both sports multiple times, with All-Section honors in soccer after the 2011 season.
The third defender joining the Red and Blue is Aaron Chen. A Mansfield Center, Conn. native, Chen played his high school soccer at Edwin O. Smith High School, where his 2010 team finished the season ranked No. 5 by the NSCAA. This past year, Chen has been prepping at Loomis Chaffee after completing his Developmental Academy play for the Oakwood Soccer Club.
The Penn Soccer Class of 2016
Aaron Chen - Mansfield Center, Conn./Edwin O. High School (Loomis Chaffee)
High School: Played for Oakwood Soccer Club in US Soccer Developmental Academy ... Twice advanced to Connecticut State Cup semifinals (2008, '09) ... Lettered four years at Edwin O. Smith ... Captained team his senior season ... Finished 2010 season ranked No. 5 by NSCAA ... Twice claimed undefeated CCC East Conference championships (2008, '10) ... ESPN Rise first-team All-State (2010) ... 2010 Connecticut Soccer Coaches Association Senior Bowl invitee ... Honorable Mention All-Hartford Courant (2010) ... CCC East All-Conference (2008-10) ... 2009 Team Most Valuable Player ... AP Scholar ... National Honor Society member and treasurer ... World Language Honor Society member ... Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society member ... E.O. Smith Mathematics Award winner ... Model United Nations club member ... Connecticut Geographic Alliance Challenge first-place finisher.
Personal: Born in Abington, Pa. ... Son of Qing Zhu and Lin Chen ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach Fuller on Aaron: "Aaron comes to us from the Oakwood Development Academy in Connecticut. We originally identified Aaron at our Penn Soccer Top-30 Camp and the Elite 300 Soccer Academy in 2010 and saw him again last spring. He is a strong, athletic centerback with a great deal of potential. He continues to improve each time we see him and we are eager to have him join us on a full-time basis this fall. With the losses to graduation this spring, Aaron will provide some much needed depth to our backline."
- London, England/The Westminster School
High School: Selected to the U18 All-England ISFA team, competing against U18 schoolboy teams from Australia, Scotland and Wales ... Has earned one full cap with English FA ... Former youth player with Queens Park Rangers ... Three-year letterwinner at The Westminster School ... Served as team captain ... 2011 Elite 300 Soccer Academy All-Star ... La Margine Coperta champion (2005).
Personal: Son of Lauren and Michael Clancy ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach Fuller on Forrest: "Forrest is an attacking player with a dynamic left foot that can play a number of positions in the front half of the field. We identified him at our Penn Soccer Top-30 Camp last spring and saw him again at the Elite 300 Soccer Academy last summer. He is probably best suited to play underneath the strikers, but we will also look to use him out wide on the left flank running at defenders and supplying our strikers with quality service in front of goal. He has a good deal of maturity to him which comes from his recent experience with the U-18 All-England Private School team in games against the U-18 National teams from Australia, Scotland, and Wales. I know Forrest is eager to get started with our squad and we look forward to him joining us in August."
Sam Engs - Lafayette, Calif./College Prep
High School: Competed for San Jose Earthquakes in US Soccer Development Academy (2010-12) ... Travelled to London with MLS' San Jose Earthquakes in 2011 as part of European training, attending camp with The Tottenham Hotspurs U18/Reserves team ... Saw time with the Earthquakes in friendly match against Colchester United ... Also played for Mustang Academy (2009-10) in Development Academy ... On the club level, played for Mustang Reds (2005-09) ... Captained the Red and was California state finalists ... Captained the '94 Mustang Reds in Manchester United Premier Cup (2009) ... USL Super Y National Camp (2008) ... All-League player at College Prep (2008-09) before bypassing final seasons for MLS Academy ... Also All-League in basketball in 2009 ... Participated in FUNDaFIELD program which raises money to construct soccer fields in Africa ... Mentor in Partners Program, tutoring young children ... Youth soccer coach.
Personal: Born in Sharon, Conn. ... Son of Alex and John Engs ... Father, John, was an All-American swimmer at Stanford ... Uncle, Charlie, played soccer at Cal ... Enrolled in Wharton.
Coach Fuller on Sam: "Sam is an extremely versatile soccer player. Over the course of recruiting Sam, I think we may have seen him play every position except goalkeeper. Sam comes to us from the San Jose Earthquakes Academy where he also saw time with the First Team and the Reserve Team. Sam was one of a select few Academy players invited to travel with the First Team on their pre-season tour of England in 2011. While there, he was invited to train with the Tottenham Hotspurs U-18/Reserves. His experience overseas and training with the Full Team will undoubtedly help him when he enters camp with us in August. We expect that Sam will push to get on the field straight away and will give us a quality option at a number of different spots."
- Rye, N.Y./Rye
High School: Three-year letterwinner ... Captained team his senior season ... Played on 2009 conference champions ... Named All-League twice (2010-11) ... All-Section (2011) ... Also lettered six times in both indoor and outdoor track and field ... Captained both seasons of track in 2011-12 ... All-League in track twice (2010-11) .... AP Scholar with honor ... National Honor Society member ... National Honor Society Leadership Award winner in 2011 ... Byrnes Family Scholarship for Soccer recipient (2011) ... George Washington University Book Award recipient.
Personal: Norn in Charlotte, N.C. ... Son of Lorna and Brian Gager ... Older brother, Brian, runs track at M.I.T. ... Enrolled in Wharton.
Coach Fuller on Henry: "We identified Henry through the Penn Soccer Top-30 Camp last spring. He came to camp as a relative unknown and left a great impression on my assistant and me. He can play anywhere along the backline, but is probably most confident as a centerback. The best compliment I can give Henry is that he reminds me of senior Thomas Brandt who was a two-year captain and was just drafted by the Philadelphia Union. Henry has a quiet confidence about him and he is very composed defensively. He passes well and strikes a clean ball over distance. I think he has a bright future ahead of him at Penn."
Griffin Heffner - Wendell, N.C./East Wake School of Arts, Education and Global Studies
High School: Played for CASL Chelsea FC in US Soccer Developmental Academy ... U16 CASL team finished eighth at 2011 National Tournament ... Invited to U.S. U17 National Team ID Camp and Residency Camp (2010) ... Travelled to Central and South America with US U17 Youth National Team (2010) ... Played for NC 1994 in Olympic Development Program, winning 2010 Region III championship and finishing third at National Championships ... Lettered four times at East Wake, captaining his team twice ... 2011 Greater Neuse River Conference champions ... Named Greater Neuse Conference Defensive Player of the Year three times (2009-11) ... Three-time All-State, All-Region, All-Conference (2009-11) ... Also lettered once in football ... CarQuest Auto Parts Evening of Champions Scholar-Athlete of the Year (2011) ... National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society member ... Principal's List student ... Beta Club member.
Personal: Born in Raleigh, N.C. ... Son of Laurel and Greg Heffner ... Father, Greg, was a hurdler at Kent State and held the school record in the 110m hurdles for 15 years ... Older brother, Garrett, plays golf at Wingate University ... Enrolled in Wharton.
Coach Fuller on Griffin: "Griffin is a former U-17 National team player and comes to us from the prestigious CASL Chelsea Academy in North Carolina. He was a stalwart at centerback and helped lead the team to the Development Academy Finals Week in the summer 2011. He is very strong in the air, organizes well, and passes cleanly out of the back. His time with the U-17 National team and the experience gained traveling with them to Central and South America will undoubtedly assist in his transition to the college game. With both of our centerbacks graduating this year, Griffin will certainly have an opportunity to make an immediate impact on our team."
- Wallingford, Pa./Strath Haven
High School: Selected to Philadelphia Union Academy U17/18 team in 2011 ... Played for Penn Fusion Celtic club team ... Claimed 2006, '09, '11 USYSA Region I championships ... Advance to 2011 National Championship game with Penn Fusion Celtic ... Won 2009 Disney Showcase ... Played four years at Strath Haven, captaining team his senior season ... Twice named All-Central League and All-Delco first-team (2010, '11) ...
Personal: Born in Philadelphia ... Son of Sarah Grieb and Kent Murphy ... Enrolled in Wharton.
Coach Fuller on Alex: "Alex was the final piece of the puzzle for our 2012 recruiting class. We had followed his progress with his Penn Fusion club team and the Philadelphia Union Academy for quite some time, but he really started to stand out late in the recruiting process. Sean McCafferty, his coach with the Penn Fusion, spoke very highly of Alex on and off the field. In addition, Philadelphia Union coach John Hackworth, who also oversees the Union's extensive Youth Development efforts, raved about Alex's soccer IQ and his performances with the Union Academy team. We feel that Alex has his best days ahead of him and are excited to welcome him to our program."
- Atlanta, Ga./Pace Academy
High School: Played for the Concorde Fire in the US Soccer Developmental Academy ... Won two state championships with the Fire (2008-09) ... Advance to Academy National Playoffs in 2010 with U16 team and 2011 U18 team ... Lettered four years at Pace ... Captained team junior and senior seasons ... 2009 and 2011 Area champions ... First-team All-Area in 2011 ... ESPN Rise All-State in 2011 ... Named Northside Neighbor Athlete of the Week (2011) ... Dean's Award recipient ... Lance and Shield Award recipient ... Faculty Award for scholarship ... National Honor Society and Cum Laude Society member ... Harvard Book Award recipient.
Personal: Born in Solihull, England ... Son of Richard Rushton and the late Rachel Rushton ... Enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Coach Fuller on James: "James comes to us from the Concord Fire Development Academy and will be reunited with his former Concord teammate Agyeman Botchway at Penn this fall. James is a two-way central midfield player that is equally adept on both sides of the ball. He reads the game well, organizes effectively, and makes good use of the ball in possession. He is a composed player with excellent leadership qualities. He has experienced a great deal of success with his Concord teams over the past few years and we expect that experience to serve him well as he looks to settle in with our team this fall."