This article was originally published by PrepSoccer staff writer, Matt Smith, on the PrepSoccer website. Matt Smith is a special news and communications correspondent with SF Elite Academy and will providing viewers with an inside look into SF Elite and what makes our club so special.
A soccer club is measured by a lot of things, and among the most important when it comes to attracting talent is proving you have the ability to send players to play in college. San Francisco Elite has committed itself to that mission, doing so while maintaining its core values of developing the athletes as young adults as well.
SF Elite created its College Pathway program, a program that is guided by higher ups within the club who have a wealth of coaching experience, and is being used as a spring board to help players who want to play in college.“We have the know how, contacts and experience to help them play at the next level,” SF Elite Executive Director Joe Dugan said. “We’ve done it, we know the recruiting experience and we have unprecedented contacts in the college game.”
“We have the know-how, contacts, and experience to help them play at the next level,” SF Elite Executive Director Joe Dugan said. “We’ve done it, we know the recruiting experience, and we have unprecedented contacts in the college game.” Dugan is one of five coaches in the program with college coaching experience or connections, all of whom have the reach, contacts, and expertise to find players a home.
“We need to get these kids to college,” girls director of coaching Jim Millinder said. “That’s one of the most important things. Doing that validates what we are doing as a club.” Millinder, who is entering his 24th season as an NCAA head coach and in his 12th season as the women’s head coach at the University of San Francisco, has a wealth of experience and many contacts across the country.
“Through the years, I have met many people in the process, and it makes it easy to pick up the phone,” Millinder said. “During the process, we strive to bring validity and honesty and aim to be realistic. We want to make sure they are selecting the school first. “We want to ensure we are on the same page as our core values are important,” Millinder said. “We want to teach them values in the game and in life as well.”
Beyond reaching out to college coaches, finding a fit, and advocating for the players in the club, Millinder also makes sure to meet with the kids, have an honest conversation, and give them insight into what is realistic for them. Also guiding in this mission is the College Pathway director, Jeff Wilson, the women’s head coach at San Francisco City College.
“We are striving to provide a platform to help players think college is the next step,” Wilson said. “We give them realistic advice about what schools fit them best.” The College Pathway program at SF Elite broadcasts a consistent message where the club, players, and parents are all doing their part. “We are preparing them to be tactically and technically ready,” Wilson said. “As a club, we are doing a good job of seeing more players move to that level.”
SF Elite has sent over 80 kids to play in college, with the most recent commit being 2004/2005 player Keely Grove, who committed to UC Davis. Considering that the club was formed in 2014 and needed to spend time getting its footing, over 80 players are impressive. And that number will be added as many players will be looking to play college soccer in the coming years, and here are a few of them.
Miren Creswell | Forward/Central Midfielder
Creswell has been steadfast in her goal to play college soccer since she was 8 years old. She is returning from injury, so she will need to work hard to improve her confidence and fitness, but she is a talented player with a high soccer IQ. She can play on either wing and as a central midfielder. She’s had match experience as a striker and central defender as well. She reads the game well and makes quick decisions with the ball. Her ability to play a first-time pass keeps the ball moving. She is powerful with crosses into the box and corners, consistently delivering them between the six and 12-yard spots. Because of her tremendous free kick, she scores most of her goals outside the box. She plays for the SF Elite 2006 Blue GA team.
Andrew Cudden | Central Defender
Cudden plays for the 2006 Boys Blue team. He is a robust and imposing center-back who is also a leader, leading by example. Because of that, he has been chosen as the team’s captain. In addition, he’s a force to be reckoned with in central defense, rarely losing battles for the ball. Cudden is a player who can play at the college level, perhaps even Division I.
Mateo Delmonte | Holding Midfielder
Delmonte, like Fujita, his teammate on the 2007 Boys Blue team, is very passionate about the game. He is your typical holding midfielder because he is aggressive, technical, and intelligent. He has a high soccer IQ and is very dynamic on the pitch. It’s not easy to find a player with his vision, and in addition, he is an excellent leader.
Aidan Dugan | Keeper
Dugan is a member of the 2023 class, playing his high school soccer at Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep, and he plays for the SF Elite 2004/2005 NPL team. He’s a good-sized, strong keeper who is brave between the posts and coming out for balls in the air. HeDugan takes command of crosses into the box and comes off his line quickly to pick the ball out of the air, or to close the angle of an attacking player coming into the box. He’s decisive, and his decisions are good ones. He’s got good reflexes and distributes the ball out of the back well.
Josie Fineberg | Central Midfielder
A player for the 2007 Girls Blue GA team, Fineberg is a player that has come into her own in the last 3-5 months and has taken over the central midfield. She can tackle, control the ball, and take on players 1v1 as she has become a tremendous all-around midfielder. In addition, she is a left-footed player who can rip the ball from outside the box, making her a threat to score and distribute.
Massayuki Fujita | Attacking Midfielder
Fujita plays for the SF Elite 2007 Boys Blue team, and is very passionate about the game and wants to play at the next level. He is a very versatile, technical and intelligent player. He projects very well and will be quite a find for any program. He can change pace quickly during the match and that really helps him stand out.
Drew Gotch | Central Defender/Forward
Gotch, who plays for the 2007 Boys Orange team, is a strong center back that can also play forward. He has a very big, accurate kick and can distribute from deep in the back line and send the ball to strikers running behind the defense. He is a center back that will be taking free kicks regularly, and will score a number of goals. He is a very disciplined player who supports his time and gives his all to track back to cover teammates or catch opponents.
Anton Taffin | Forward/Central Defender
Taffin has made himself very versatile, as he can play on both wings and can also play central defender. He plays for the SF Elite 2007 Boys Orange team, with Gotch, and is an extremely coachable and team-first player. He shows great leadership, helping the team refocus when needed, communicates well and is a true ambassador on the pitch. He has great speed on the wings, and can dribble the ball in tight spaces before picking out a pass or sending in a cross. Defensively, he’s very dedicated and willing to track back.
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