The latest example of the tremendous growth of youth soccer in WNC is the signings of three local players by UNC Asheville.
And all three are getting a kickstart on their college careers.
Ben Katt of Tuscola High, Evan Lewis of Roberson and Reynolds’ Izaiah Vignali have graduated early and are enrolled at Asheville.
Vignali is considered WNC’s top player and was named the state Player of the Year after collecting 23 goals and 14 assists this season while leading the Rockets to the 3A state championship match.
Katt had 33 goals and six assists for the Mountaineers, while Lewis led Roberson with 10 assists.
"To spend the spring in our environment will really help them to hit the ground running this fall,” said Bulldogs’ soccer coach Mathes Mennell.
“What makes it even more exciting is they are all local talents and have excelled for their respective high schools and for Highland Football Club, where they all played on the same team (HFC Red 99).
"The part that pleases me the most about these three young men choosing UNC Asheville is it says a lot about what we are doing here and it says a lot about the quality of player that our soccer community is developing," Mennell said.
Katt is a 6-2, 170-pound midfielder, whose brother Chris played for the Bulldogs.
"Ben is a player that we are really quite pleased about signing," Mennell said. "He is a very rangy midfielder who has the ability to impact the game both on and off the ball. He also has a charismatic, positive personality that really adds quality to any group he is a part of.”
Lewis is a 5-11, 155-pound defender and midfielder.
"Evan is a player that you love to identify, recruit and eventually matriculate into your program," Mennell said. "He has a great engine, is left footed, is keen to play wide and loves to grind. He is going to be a nice addition to our team as a versatile left-sided player.”
Vignali is a 5-11, 170-pound midfielder.
"Izaiah is a special player," Mennell said. "He possesses all the attributes you can wish for. Great athletic ability, superb pace, fantastic technical ability, excellent tactical savvy and a palpable desire to compete are all hallmarks of his game.”