This fall, several Orlando City academy products had successful seasons for their college teams. As the next step in their development toward joining either the Lions or the Pride, the success of these players displays the progress of the club's academy in both the boys and girls programs.
Defender Michael O'Sullivan of Palm Beach Atlantic started 19 of 20 games, helping the Sailfish to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Tournament. O'Sullivan led his team in minutes with 1,539, recording one goal during the season. The Sailfish's season ended when they fell to the eventual champions, Pfeiffer, 5-4, in the quarterfinals.
The most Orlando City-rich team in college soccer this year was Winter Park's Rollins College. The Tars had three players that played a significant part in their NCAA Division II Men's Soccer Tournament run. Goalkeeper Drew Trautmann started the season as a backup to starter Julian Grundler, becoming the starter in the team's ninth game against Eckerd. He would go on to play 12 games with a 2.21 goals-against average and recorded an 8-4 record.
The most significant Orlando City player for the Tars this year was freshman Johnny Nartowicz. Starting all 21 games, the midfielder played the third most minutes for the Tars with 1,572. He recorded one goal and two assists this season but played a significant role in the team's midfield.
Freshman Alex Chopra didn't start any games for the Tars in 2015, but made 12 appearances off the bench, recording four shots. The Tars' NCAA Tournament run stalled in the third round when they lost, 6-1, to Palm Beach Atlantic.
Orlando City's academy was also well represented in the NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Tournament, with four players playing for three highly ranked teams. The Elon Phoenix were ranked in the top 20 for most of the 2015 season, with two Orlando City academy products. Defender Nicholas O'Callaghan played in 19 games, starting 15, and recorded one goal and one assist. Forward Jaden Fortune played in 21 games, starting two and recording five goals and six assists. Both players were key components for the Phoenix in their win over Winthrop and played important roles in their 5-2 loss to Clemson, with Fortune scoring in that final game.
The Creighton Blue Jays spent most of the 2015 season as the top ranked team in the country. Midfielder Noah Franke began the year on the bench as an often used substitute, but eventually the sophomore played his way into the starting lineup. He ended the season having played 23 games, and started 17, on a run that took the Blue Jays to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Franke scored three goals this season with three assist in 1,651 minutes.
One of the four teams that will compete in the 2015 College Cup is the Clemson Tigers. Sophomore midfielder Michael Melvin has played in 21 games for the Tigers this season, being an important substitute for much of the year, but playing his way into the starting lineup late in the season. He finished the season with two goals and two assists, helping the team reach the final four of college soccer.
Several more Lions made an impact on college soccer on the women's side. Centre College used two Orlando City academy products to help them in their run to the Division III final four. Junior midfielder Lucy Yanckello featured in one game for Centre, while Madeline Loftus played in 15 games, recording three shots.
Nova Southeastern featured three former Lions on its roster and all three played a role in the run to a Division II Tournament berth. Freshman forward Emily Stearns played in 18 games, starting 12, and recorded four goals and four assists. Sophomore midfielder Carley Montgomery played in 16 games and started seven, recording one goal and two assists. Sophomore defender Sabrina Magno played 18 games, starting 10. The Sharks exited the Division II Tournament in the first round with a 1-0 loss to West Florida.
The UCF Knights women's soccer team had a strong season in Division I, which earned them a berth in the NCAA Tournament this season. After transferring home from Mississippi State, junior defender Darbi Filliben played in 19 games for the Knights this season as part of a strong back line. UCF's season ended in a first-round loss to William & Mary.
Another local school to reach the NCAA Tournament was the South Florida Bulls, featuring three former Lions on their roster. Sophomore forward Jessica Hamrick played in 21 games this season, recording a goal and an assist. Sophomore midfielder Brittany Raymond played 22 games for the Bulls, scoring two goals and adding two assists. Sophomore defender Nikki Lauderback also played a role for the Bulls, featuring in five games. South Florida lost to Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The number four seeded USC Trojans had a great season in 2015 with a run to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Mandy Freeman played an integral role in that season, starting all 23 games for the Trojans. The junior defender/midfielder played 1,952 minutes, recording two goals and six assists on her way to being named second-team All-Pac-12. The Trojans' season ended when they fell to the top seeded Virginia Cavaliers.
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As the Orlando City academy continues to develop, more talented players are being produced. Part of their development is in college soccer, and former Lions are littered throughout the collegiate game. Many of them this season played important roles in postseason runs. As the Orlando City academy improves going forward, more players will play important roles for successful college teams.