Aspen’s Joel Brice likes taste of college soccer
The Aspen Times
When he was wearing the colors of the Aspen Skiers, Joel Brice dreamed of playing college soccer.
His dream started to come true a year ago when he signed to play college soccer at William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri.
His dream became reality this fall when Brice played his first season of college soccer, wearing those familiar red and black colors that he wore as an all-state player at Aspen High School.
“I enjoyed playing in college,” Brice said. “It was really fun. I got to adapt to the new (college level) game.”
Brice picked up significant playing time as a freshman on the roster at William Jewell College, an NCAA Division II school in the ultra-competitive Great Lakes Valley Conference.
He said the level of competition in William Jewell practices as well as the matches was even higher that he had expected.
“Everybody here was the star on their high school team,” Brice said, adding that competition for playing time was apparent at each college practice session.
Brice played in 12 matches as a freshman, drawing one start on the season.
“I made the travel … team for every game except one,” Brice said. “It’s a different level of soccer; it was good to get the experience.”
He said the players on his Cardinals’ team and throughout the conference are not only advanced athletes but advanced mentally as soccer players.
Most of the colleges in the West Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference are in Missouri, a state with a rich prep soccer history dating back decades.
The West Division includes Drury University of Springfield, Missouri; Maryville University of St. Louis; Quincy University of Quincy, Illinois; Rockhurst University of Kansas City, Missouri; and Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri
The East Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference includes Bellarmine University (Louisville, Kentucky), University of Illinois-Springfield, Lewis University (Romeoville, Illinois), McKendree University (Lebanon, Illinois), Saint Joseph’s College (Rensselaer, Indiana), University of Southern Indiana (Evansville) and University of Wisconsin-Parkside
“I got to go to some places I’ve never been, like Chicago and Wisconsin,” Brice said.
The two-time all-conference player and all-state player in high school, Brice said the effort the players expend in practice is inspiring and challenging.
The academics, too, are challenging at William Jewell, a private liberal arts college with an undergraduate enrollment of 1,100.
“It’s a really good school,” Brice said, recalling his first semester course load. He’ll take an even heavier load next semester after the fall soccer season.
In the meantime, he said, he has lots of writing assignments as a first-semester freshman at William Jewell College.
“Next week, I have three papers due,” Brice said, adding that the soccer team at William Jewell provides a valuable support system for the rigors of the academic life.
The older players help the younger players with classes and class selections.
Brice started the season as a backup striker for the Cardinals. He was moved to the back line of defense when the need arose at midseason.
By season’s end, William Jewell coaches had moved Brice to the wing, where he had room to use his explosive speed.
“I prefer playing wing,” said Brice, the son of Shara and the Rev. Jonathan Brice of Aspen.
He said moving to different positions will help as he pursues a soccer coaching career after his playing days.
“I’ve been coaching soccer since my sophomore year in high school,” said Brice, who led the Aspen United U10 team last year. “It felt good to see their progress.”
Brice also commended Aspen High School coach Dave Francis for encouraging him to pursue college soccer.
“Dave was a great asset,” Brice said. “I think he has a great coaching philosophy. Dave could coach in college.”
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Teams have two more weekends of racing before the scheduled regional meet on Oct. 9 in Durango. The state cross country meet is slated for Oct. 17 in Colorado Springs.