BLUEFIELD — An early season injury cost Connor Vencill a portion of his junior season with the Richlands boys soccer team. As of this moment, not only is he looking forward to a fruitful senior season as an attacking midfielder for the Blue Tornados: he is already looking forward to his college playing career.
This past Wednesday, Vencill signed a letter of intent to play college soccer for the Bluefield College men’s soccer program during a ceremony at Richlands High School.
“There were three or four schools that were making me offers, and I just thought Bluefield was the best for me and my family and Bluefield seemed to want me. I just thought it was the best decision for me and for the team,” said Vencill, whose parents are Tammie and Rickie Vencill, the latter of whom took over the boys soccer head coaching job at Richlands last season.
“We are extremely excited. This is a big honor for our school and a big honor for our family,” said Coach Vencill. “He’s worked hard for the last 14 years of playing soccer to now be able to play at college and he works hard in school to be able to have a 4.0 GPA. He’s mine, but he is a true student-athlete.”
Connor is interested in a career in sports medicine or physical therapy. He’ll pursue a science-heavy curriculum at Bluefield College.
Vencill was expected to be one of the Tornados’ top offensive threats of the 2018 season but broke his collarbone in a collision with a Graham player in a hotly-contested game at East River Soccer Complex. Not only did the Blues temporarily lose the services of Vencill last year, Levi Forrest was lost for the rest of the season to an injury.
Vencill was able to come back to the squad in time for the playoffs last year, however, and Richlands fought their way through the district tournament into the regional bracket, ultimately losing to Union 3-2 in the first round.
As an attacking midfielder, Vencill is used to covering a lot of ground in game situations; from going on the offensive to dropping back to shore up the defense. His other varsity sport at Richlands — cross country — more or less helped boost his endurance for soccer. His range and his foot skills give him a lot of versatility which Bluefield College looks forward to putting to use.
“I’m grateful for my position because, where I’m used to playing here, I’m not fully a forward and there are a lot of situations where I can get back and help,” Vencill said. “I assume I’ll be playing up front (for Bluefield College) but wherever the coach wants to put me, I’ll play. I’ll do anything they need me to do to make the team better.”
In the meantime he’s looking forward to his upcoming senior season this spring do whatever’s necessary to make Richlands boys soccer better. And he’ll be surrounded by veteran teammates sharing the same objective.
Forrest is a school recordholder as a placekicker for the Richlands football team and should be a highly-recruited by both college football and soccer scouts.
Jay Fuller, who was Richlands’ back-up placekicker last fall, is also a strong prospect to sign for college soccer. Ryan Lawson is another Tornado with college soccer potential.
Basically, Richlands entire starting lineup should have a solid grasp of what it’s about this spring.
“If we can stay healthy this year, we’re going to have a really good team. We got off to a 10-0 start last year and had a couple kids get hurt and had a rough season a little while after that. But if we can stay healthy, we’re going to be all right,” Coach Vencill said. “We don’t have a lot of depth, but we’re going to be pretty good with our starting 11 and a few subs.”
Connor Vencill said the Tornados are looking forward to enhancing Richlands’ reputation as a futbol school as well as a football school.
“After recovering from all those injuries, we’re all looking forward to this season. Every year we’ve gotten a little better and this year we’re looking forward to hopefully making the state tournament this spring,” Connor said.
“I think we’re looking pretty tough with the guys we’ve got and we’ve put in lots of work in the off-season. I think we’re ready. I think we can handle any body around here.”