CANTON As the new school year approaches, the Malone University men’s soccer and softball teams recently announced additions to their respective recruiting class, including three Suburbanite-area athletes who will get the chance to continue playing at the college level.
Malone men’s soccer head coach Eric Reed announced the commitments of 12 student-athletes who will join the roster for this fall, including a pair of defenders from The Suburbanite’s coverage area. Former Lake Center Christian standout C.J. Bancroft, a versatile athlete who contributed in many areas for the Tigers, and former Coventry defender Ethan Sulek are among the 12 players joining Malone.
"I am incredibly proud of the 2018 class," Reed said. "Collectively, they are very well-rounded, covering and strengthening positions all over the field. The range and quality of these young men is a phenomenal addition to our current team."
Reed noted that all 12 fit well with not only the program’s outlook, but also the mission and philosophy of the university.
"This group brings a variety of personalities, positions, and backgrounds," Reed said. "I believe that bringing them into the Malone family will produce something very special- both on and off the field. I couldn't be more excited to bring them in and begin building right away for something special."
Bancroft was a four-year member of the LCC soccer and baseball teams and a three-year member of the basketball team. He helped guide the soccer team to Portage Trail Conference championships in both 2015 and 2016 and was a two-time First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Stark County and Second Team All-District selection in soccer.
In his senior season, he was also named First Team All Tri-County, received the NSCAA Senior Excellence Award and participated in the Stark County and GASSCA Senior all-star games.
Off the field, he earned the OSSCA Academic Excellence Award and graduated in Lake Center’s top 10. As the nephew of Jon and Jessica Hance, who competed for the Malone baseball and volleyball teams, respectively, in the late 1980s, Bancroft has strong ties to the university and plans to major in Biology/Pre-Med.
Sulek was a four-year letterwinner in soccer for Coventry and also earned one letter each in tennis and track. He was named the soccer team’s defensive MVP his junior year and was an Honorable Mention All-District selection his senior year while also serving as a team captain.
Academically, Sulek received the Wendy’s High School Local Academic Sports Award and was a member of the National Honor Society. He plans to study criminal justice at Malone.
The softball team is also bringing a new batch of local talent to the roster, having previously signed former Springfield standout Erika Johsnon and now, adding one of her PTC rivals, Coventry catcher Megan Labut. Johnson signed with Malone back in November, making her college choice early.
Last month, Malone softball coach Kathryn Bzdafka announced the addition of seven student-athletes to the Pioneers’ 2018-19 recruiting class.
"This year's incoming class is dynamic," Bzdafka said. "They are tremendous young women who are vital pieces of our process as they each bring something to the table that makes us better."
Labut, a catcher, was a four-year member of the Coventry softball team. She posted a .526 batting average as a junior and then caught every inning of the season for Coventry as a senior this past spring. Academically, she received a Scholar Athlete Award during each year of her high school career and intends to major in finance at Malone.
The addition of Bancroft, Sulek, Johnson and Labut continues a trend of local athletes from Suburbanite-area schools committing to Malone. Several of Bancroft, Sulek, Johnson and Labut’s former classmates or teammates at their respective schools are currently on rosters at Malone, so their arrival on campus will be a reunion of sorts.
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