When a college placement agency found Will Stone a soccer home in New York, the native of Littlehampton, England, was excited about what the future might bring.
And not just on the pitch. While he believed relocating to America to play at the collegiate level would pave the way to bigger and better things in soccer, he also liked the idea of exploring New York.
As in New York City. So what if he had never heard of Genesee Community College or Batavia, New York. How far could it be from the Big Apple?
“I thought,” Stone said, “it was close to New York City.”
Surprise. The acres and acres of farmland abutting the GCC campus? That’s not Central Park. In Batavia it’s Park Road, not Park Avenue. And that smell of fresh country air that wafts through Genesee County as farmers prepare their fields? That’s quite a different aroma from vehicle exhaust.
No matter, as it turns out. Stone cherished his two years at GCC and is anxious for the next two-year chapter of his collegiate career to begin in the fall at NCAA Division I Wright State.
He was offered a full scholarship and will call Fairburn, Ohio, his new American home for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years.
First things first, however. Stone is spending the summer with the Rochester Lancers, honing his abundant skill set in the NPSL.
On Friday night he continued to pressure the opposing goal from his spot at striker and scored the game’s first goal in a 2-0 victory over Syracuse FC on the pitch of Charlie Schiano Sr. Field at Aquinas Institute. Mike Cunningham scored the second goal while keeper William Banahene posted the shutout with a fairly busy night in goal.
The 20-year-old Stone has scored a goal in each of the past three games, helping ignite a four-game unbeaten streak for the Lancers (3-2-1). In that stretch they have outscored the opposition 8-1 and will look to stay hot when they host Cleveland at 4 p.m. Sunday.
“I’d like to score a goal a game,” Stone said of his ambitious expectations. “I want to help my team every game.”
He certainly has the talent to make an impact. His goal on Friday was a thing of beauty and gave the Lancers the 1-0 lead in the 47th minute.
Lukas Fernandes head-manned the ball for Stone down the right side with a 40-yard pass. The ball created a dilemma for Syracuse goalkeeper Pat Castle: Try to win the race with Stone, or sit back and wait for the Lancers striker to streak in alone. Castle opted for the race and just lost, with Stone managing to play the ball past him and then, just a yard or two before the end line, slither a perfect left-footed shot just inside the post from the sharpest of sharp angles.
“That was not an easy shot at all,” Lancers coach Doug Miller said, marveling at Stone’s ability to convert.
Miller wasn’t all that surprised, however. He has seen what Stone is capable of doing.
“He’s crafty, he’s strong on the ball and he has the competitiveness and drive to be successful,” Miller said.
Stone ended up in Western New York thanks largely to a recruiting video his agency made. GCC coach Ken Gavin was impressed and Stone was on his way.
He’s overjoyed at the decision.
“I love it here, this is my new home,” Stone said. “I just think it’s a great country. I loved my time at GCC. The coach was a people person and I had two successful years.”
That’s a bit of an understatement. Stone leaves GCC as the school’s all-time leader in points (134) and goals (48). He was the leading scorer in NJCAA in 2016 with 66 points (23 goals, 20 assists) and was a two-time NJCAA All-America selection as well as the two-time Region 3 Player of the Year.
“I always wanted soccer to lead to something,” Stone said, “and I’m just living it right now.”