Trio of Men’s Soccer Players Go Pro

by Meaghan P Cahill on February 13, 2020

Friar Sports

By Liam Tormey ’22

Sports Staff

providence college men's soccer players mls draft griffin Aviza Mendonca
Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/The Cowl

Three Providence College men’s soccer players are now professional soccer players. Danny Griffin ’20 and Austin Aviza ’20RS are now both part of Major League Soccer (MLS) teams, while Tiago Mendonca ’20RS has signed in the United Soccer League (USL).

The 2020 MLS SuperDraft took place on Thursday, January 9. In the draft,  Aviza was selected in the second round, number 44 overall, by Orlando City. Griffin was also selected in the second round, just five spots after Aviza in the number 49 spot overall, selected by the Columbus Crew SC. Mendonca has signed a professional contract with the New England Revolution II in the USL League One. 

providence college men's soccer players mls draft griffin Aviza Mendonca
Lillie Hunter ’22/The Cowl

In the 2019 campaign for the Friars, Aviza, from Medway, MA, featured in all 23 games as PC’s goalie. Aviza was also honored to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll twice along with being awarded All-Big East Third Team honors. After their second round win in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament against Penn State University, Coach Craig Stewart credited Aviza, saying, “I think he’s been steady all year and very consistent as a goal keeper,” and a large part of the comeback win against Penn State was because of Aviza; as Coach Stewart mentioned, “We don’t win that game without him.” In the 23 games Aviza played this season, he posted a 16-7 with 56 saves and recorded nine shutouts. 

Griffin, one of the captain midfielders from Wethersfield, CT, had the same profound impact for the team in his time spent at Friartown. In his career, Griffin recorded 32 points with 13 goals and six assists. Griffin has been named to the Preseason All-Big East Team in 2018 and was also a unanimous pick into the Big East All-Freshman Team. He played and started in all 80 games during his career. In the 2019 campaign, Griffin had eight points and one game-winning goal this season against the University of Villanova in a 2-0 victory. He was also awarded All-Big East Third Team Honors this past season. 

providence college men's soccer players mls draft griffin Aviza Mendonca
Nicholas Crenshaw ’20/The Cowl

Mendonca, from Faro, Portgual, was another captain for the Friars this season. He started all 23 games and was an integral part in the midfield. He was crucial in helping the team reach the  third round of the NCAA Tournament. In his time at PC, Mendonca recorded 26 total points with 11 goals and four assists. Before the season’s start, Mendonca was named to the Preseason All-Big East team and then was named to the All-Big East First Team and Big East All-Tournament Team to round out the season. In the second round game against Penn State, Mendonca scored the equalizer with just under five minutes remaining in regulation before the Friars would go on to win in overtime. 

After PC’s heartbreaking loss to Clemson Unversity in double overtime in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, Coach Stewart commended his senior captains, saying he “couldn’t be more proud for the work that they’ve contributed towards the program.” Stewart said they were both “fantastic footballers but also human beings.” 

In the same press conference, Griffin spoke of his time with the Friars and said, since freshman year, “The community, the coaches, the staff, the trainers, it’s been a family and it’s meant everything to us.”

Aviza, Griffin, and Mendonca all played crucial roles in the big success PC had on the pitch this past season. They were role models for the organization and have left their mark on Friar history. 

Julian Gressel ’16 Finds Home with Atlanta United

by The Cowl Editor on January 24, 2019

Friar Sports

By Scott Jarosz ’21

Sports Staff

After what was an outstanding career as a midfielder on the Providence College Men’s Soccer Team, Julian Gressel ’16 has quickly become one of the top rising stars in Major League Soccer. Born in Neustadt an der Aisch, Germany, Gressel came to the United States in 2013 to join the Friars’ soccer team. Gressel’s impact on the team was felt immediately as he started all 22 games for the Friars in his freshman season. Over that span of time, Gressel led the team in goals, assists, points, and shots on goal. In his rookie season, Gressel achieved a Big East Rookie of the Week honor and was named to the Big East All-Rookie Team and All-Big East Second Team.

julian gressel providence college atlanta united mls soccer
Photo Courtesy of SBISoccer

Gressel continued to produce for the Friars in his sophomore season on the team in 2014. During the 2013-14 season, Gressel scored five goals and added five assists. He continued his steady play into the Big East Tournament, receiving Big East All-Tournament Team recognition. In 2015, Gressel scored five goals in his third season at PC. He again received numerous accolades including being named to the Big East All-Tournament Team and the All-Big East Second Team. However, during his senior season in 2016, Gressel truly played to his full potential. Gressel netted an outstanding 15 goals in just 22 games played, 6 assists, and 36 total points. His incredible performance throughout the season ultimately led to an NCAA tournament berth for the Friars, which included an incredible 5-4 comeback win over No. 1 seed University of Maryland. Gressel added two goals in this second-round game of the tournament, and finished second all-time in goals, assists, and points among all PC players.

Upon the conclusion of his career at PC, Gressel entered the 2017 MLS Super Draft where he was the highest Friar ever selected. He was picked up by Atlanta United FC as the 8th overall draft pick in the draft.

In his rookie season with Atlanta, Gressel showed no signs of being overwhelmed with the conversion from college to professional soccer. In his first season with Atlanta United, Gressel appeared in 32 games, scoring five goals and adding nine assists. This stellar first season led to him being named the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year. Atlanta, however, fell short in the MLS Playoffs to Columbus Crew SC in the 2017 season. Gressel and Atlanta United made sure that they would not fall short the following season, and showcased their dominance throughout the 2018 season.

In his second season in the MLS, Gressel scored four goals and recorded 14 assists to help lead his squad to its first MLS Cup victory. Atlanta beat the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup Final by a score of 2-0. This was a fitting way for Atlanta United to cap off its second season in the league as no other MLS team showcased nearly the same level of quality and consistency throughout the season. Gressel was an integral part of this quality and consistency as a rock-solid midfielder.

Through just two seasons in MLS, Gressel boasts a Rookie of the Year award and an MLS Cup victory. The PC graduate has shown no signs of slowing down as he is one of the top young midfielders in the league.

Beckham to Create New MLS Team

by The Cowl Editor on February 8, 2018

Professional Sports

by Joe Myko ’19

Sports Staff

david beckham mls miami team
Photo Courtesy of Aaron Davidson/Getty Images

Former England national team soccer captain David Beckham announced on Monday Jan. 29 that his long-awaited Miami-based Major League Soccer team will be launched, becoming the 25th team included within the franchise.

Beckham and Miami were formally granted an expansion side by Don Garber, an MLS commissioner, at a ceremony at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Monday. Beckham himself promised, “The team we will bring into the league will be the best team.”

The club is still unnamed, with no official badge, known team colors, or officially signed players; however, it has been confirmed that the Miami-based side will play at a 25,000 capacity stadium in the Overtown neighborhood of the city.

Having played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and LA Galaxy, Beckham was well-travelled in his sporting career, something that will no doubt prove useful for developing and building this club from scratch. He said “I’ve had a long career in the game. I’ve had a wealth of experience from playing with different clubs in different cities around the world, so I’ve been able to experience different leagues and different cultures, so that’s where I can add my expertise into this ownership group. That will be my role to bring great, talented players, but also to build this academy.”

Beckham announced his intentions to establish the club in 2014, after having exercised a clause in his contract with LA Galaxy which allowed him to buy an expansion franchise. It has been a rather frustrating four years for those involved with the project, as there have been various disputes which have halted progress, mainly in relation to Miami residents disapproving of the placement of potential stadium builds.

Since joining LA Galaxy back in 2007, a team he went on to make 98 appearances for, the former-midfielder has been vocal about his appreciation and support for the growing enthusiasm for soccer within the United States. Beckham, speaking at the announcement ceremony on Monday, told the BBC that “I joined the Galaxy because I realised the long-term potential in this league.” He went on to say, “Commissioner Garber came to me and sat down and explained the plan of this league and where he wanted to take it. I was in from day one.”

Though many of the specifics surrounding this Miami-based MLS team are unconfirmed, Beckham has in fact ruled out any role as a coach or manager. The 42-year-old confirmed that “Management has never been something that I’ve felt passionate about doing.” However, this does not mean Beckham will not still have a very hands-on approach to the development of his club he went on to say that his major role will be to help develop the academy and its players.

Ultimately, this announcement is great news for not only Miami-based soccer fans, but all United States soccer fans. Beckham, as one of the sport’s most famous and recognizable names, should have no problem marketing and bringing more interest to the league.

The MLS, and the United States in general, has long been considered a sleeping giant within the soccer sphere, so Beckham’s promises to bring in top players and coaches could prove pivotal in helping to unlock the league’s potential. It is also good news for the nation’s young talent, as the former Ballon d’Or nominee was quoted on Monday as enthusiastically saying, “We keep talking about building this state-of-the-art academy in Miami, because we have a hotbed of talent in young kids here and I believe if we build the right facilities, if we bring the right coaches, then we have a chance of bringing home-grown talent into this team.”

Friars in the Pros

by The Cowl Editor on November 30, 2017

Professional Sports

As Providence College athletics are Divison I, the Friars have seen many of their athletes go on to play professionally in their respective sports. Three writers gave updates on Friars who play on professional soccer, hockey, and basketball teams.


By Jack Belanger ’21

Sports Co-Editor

chicago bulls player Kris Dunn
Photo Courtesy of Chicago Bulls

With their recent success in the Big East, Providence has seen multiple Friars appear in the National Basketball Association and other professional basketball leagues.

Marshon Brooks ’11 played four seasons at PC from 2007-2011, averaging 24.6 points per game (ppg)  his senior year. He was the 25th pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics but was immediately traded to the Brooklyn Nets. After a promising rookie year where he averaged 12.6 ppg and was named to the NBA all-rookie second team, Brooks saw his playing time decreased dramatically and struggled to find a consistent role in the NBA. After the 2013-2014 season he signed with Emporio Armani Milano, an Italian basketball team.

Ben Bentil ’18 played only two seasons for the Friars. Bentil broke out his sophomore year in 2015-2016, averaging 21.1 ppg and 7.7  rebounds per game. He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics.

After playing in three preseason games, Boston waived Bentil and he spent most of the year in the NBA D-league, the NBA’s minor league. Bentil managed to make his NBA debut for the Dallas Mavericks on Mar. 1 and became the first person born in Ghana to play in the NBA. Bentil currently plays for the Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket in the Ligue de Nationale de Basket in France where he is averaging 12.4 ppg.

Kris Dunn ’16  is one of the best players to come out from Providence College in a long time. Dunn played four seasons for PC (2012-2016), averaging 12.8 ppg and 5.8 assists per game, and was named the Big East Player of the Year and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. Dunn was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. After playing limited minutes during his rookie year, Dunn was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he has broken out, averaging 10.6 ppg and has become the team’s starting point guard through 18 games.


By Jeremy Perrigo ’18

Sports Staff

boston bruins hockey player Noel Acciari
Photo Courtesy of Fred Kfoury

The Providence College Men’s Hockey Team has produced many professional athletes over the last several years. The Friars won the National Championship in 2015, and that roster contained four players that have already seen National Hockey League ice time.

Forwards Noel Acciari ’16, Mark Jankowski ’16, Brandon Tanev ’16 and goaltender Jon Gillies ’16 were part of the high-caliber roster.

Acciari had 32 points in 41 games during the Friar’s championship run, and on June 8, 2015, the undrafted forward signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins. Acciari, a Johnston, Rhode Island native, has seven points in 57 games with Boston as of Nov. 26.

Jankowski played his senior year at PC, scoring 40 points in 38 games, an improvement from 27 in 37 during the championship season. Jankowski was drafted 21st overall by the Calgary Flames in 2012 and has three goals and an assist in 16 games.

Tanev was signed by the Winnipeg Jets in March 2016 and has eight points in 76 games with the team as of this past Sunday.

Gillies was drafted 75th overall by Calgary in 2012. He had a goals against average of 2.01 and save percentage of .930 in the Friars’ championship year.

Other notable alumni are current Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach ’01 and long time NHLer Hal Gill ’97. Both were defensemen; Leach played 70 career NHL games while Gill amassed an impressive 1,108.

Perhaps one of the best-known Friars is long time Men’s Hockey head coach and athletic director Lou Lamoriello ‘63. A native of Johnston, Rhode Island, Lamoriello had a lengthy career in Friar athletics before winning three Stanley Cups as the general manager of the New Jersey Devils from 1987-2015. He is currently general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.


By Joe Myko ’19

Sports Staff

soccer player julian gressel
Photo Courtesy of Jason Getz

The most recent Providence College alumnus to break into the world of professional soccer is Atlanta United’s Julian Gressel ’16 who was named Major League Soccer’s AT&T Rookie of the Year in November, after scoring an impressive five goals with nine assists in his debut season. The German-born midfielder is ranked third in the college’s all-time list of goal scorers, having netted 30 times for the Friars, and comes in at second for career assists with 26.

Ryan Maduro ’09 is another former Friar who has followed up his time at college with a successful career in soccer. The attacking midfielder scored 14 and assisted 22 goals during his time at Providence, before going on to sign with various clubs, including Iceland’s first division side Flykir and MLS’s New York Red Bulls, who he made his professional debut for in 2012.

Once former Friar Chaka Daley ’96 hung up his cleats in 1999, after having played for various professional sides including the MLS’s New England Revolution, he decided to return to PC to take up a coaching role enjoying a successful 11 years as manager from 2000-2011.

Midfielder Andrew Sousa ’10 was drafted by MLS’s side New England Revolution in 2011, before going on to enjoy an extensive career thus far, most notably at the likes of Portugal’s Operário (third division), Iceland’s Fylkir (first division), and Canada’s Ottawa Fury (who operate in the second division of the North American soccer leagues).

Chris Konopka ’06 has enjoyed a successful and wide-spread career since leaving Providence, having signed with various professional outfits including MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC and Portland Timbers as well as the Scottish Premiership’s Ross County. Konopka played 21 times for Toronto FC between 2013-15, becoming an integral part of the club’s first playoff appearance in club history in 2015. The New Jersey native also holds records with Toronto FC for the most regular season game wins with 11, as well as the best single-season win percentage for any goalkeeper in the club’s history with 59.5 percent.