As one of the top-rated U-18 club soccer players in the country, Williston senior Aaron James has traveled extensively with his New England Revolution Academy club and trained with candidates for the U. S. National Team. Still, he says, “Playing under the lights on Sawyer Field are some of my favorite memories. Getting to play in front of friends and community is always exciting.”
Now the Amherst, MA, forward will get the chance to play before the fans at the University of Virginia, a Division 1 soccer powerhouse that won its most recent NCAA championship in 2014. He signed his national letter of intent to play with the Cavaliers Wednesday at a signing ceremony in the Dodge Room of the Reed Campus Center.
Aaron played his freshman and sophomore years as a Wildcat “before receiving a very rare waiver to pursue soccer on this elite national level team,” explains Mark Conroy, Williston’s Director of Athletics. (U.S. Soccer requirements prevented him from continuing with his high school team.) In his time with Williston, notes assistant coach Andrew Syfu, “Aaron made an immediate impact and started on a team that earned a number eight seed in the New England Tournament his freshman year. He was one of two freshman that started and played significant minutes on a senior-heavy team. His sophomore year he played a much more prominent role and was the focus of our offense. He scored 5 goals his sophomore year and 3 goals as a freshman.” That year, he was one of just two sophomores named to the Western New England Prep School Soccer Association all-star team. More recently, Top Drawer Soccer rated him the number 2 club player in the Northeast region and the number 15 club forward in the country.
But he still appreciates his time as a Wildcat. “Playing for Williston was at times challenging because we always played a tough schedule,” Aaron recalls. “However, I enjoyed it and it enhanced my skills as both a leader and competitor.”
As a member of the Revolution Academy club team, Aaron “made 33 appearances, including 21 starts on the season, tallying four goals and eight assists,” the club reports. “He appeared 13 times for the Under-16 team, scoring once and adding five assists, while he also appeared 20 times for the Under-18s, where he notched three goals and three assists.”
At Virginia, he’ll be joining a program that has qualified for the NCAA Division 1 championship tournament a record 35 years in a row. “He’s really excited about Virginia, and so are we,” said his mother Lara, who with his father David attended the signing. “Obviously we are immensely proud of him and all the hard work he has put in. He’s a hard-working kid.”
Before joining the Revolution Academy, Aaron lived with his family in the Washington, D.C., area and played with D.C. United’s Under-14 team. He also served as captain of D.C. Stoddert’s U-13 team. With his decision to attend Virginia, he’ll be returning to the soccer-friendly mid-Atlantic, but taking some of New England with him.
“Williston has had a profound impact not only on me as a player but also on me as an individual,” Aaron says. “It has been a place where I’ve been able to grow and I’m keen to bring these traits I’ve learned with me to the University of Virginia.”
View photos from the signing ceremony on Williston’s Flickr site.