Springfield, Ohio — Former Wittenberg University men's soccer standouts Matt Borland, class of 2009 from Kettering, Ohio, and Justin Jenkins, class of 2009 from Dublin, Ohio, may have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, but that doesn't mean their soccer careers have ended. In fact, they may have just begun.
Borland, the first two-time North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Offensive Player of the Year in program history, has been invited to practice and play scrimmage games with the Columbus Crew, the defending champions of Major League Soccer (MLS). Jenkins, a four-year starting sweeper for the Tigers, has earned a roster spot with the Cincinnati Kings, a semi-professional team that plays in the Premier Development League, a division of the United Soccer League.
"The professional opportunities that have presented themselves to Matt and Justin are testament to their hard work and dedication while in the men's soccer program at Wittenberg," said Tiger Head Coach Steve Dawson. "I look forward to watching them continue to grow as soccer players in the future."
Considering his record-breaking collegiate career, it is fitting that Borland is the first Tiger player to earn an opportunity to play with an MLS team since the league was founded in 1996. Borland finished his career in the Red & White with three straight first-team All-NCAC selections, two straight first-team All-Great Lakes Region awards and a pair of All-America designations. He ranked second on the team with seven goals and first in the NCAC with 13 assists in 2008, finishing his career with 27 goals, 30 assists and 84 total points. His assist total broke the school record by six.
Borland has not been offered a contract with the Crew, but he has made the most of a golden opportunity to display his skills to the team's coaches. He has practiced regularly with the team since early April, and he has played extensively in scrimmages against NCAA Division I powerhouses Marshall University, Akron University and The Ohio State University. He has played midfield, frequently lining up with some of the Crew's top players, including defender Frankie Hejduk, who has earned more than 80 caps while playing with the United States national team.
Jenkins, the 2005 NCAC Newcomer of the Year, spearheaded a Wittenberg defensive unit that allowed just 10 goals during a school-record 13-game winning streak to start the 2008 season. After injuring his collarbone, Wittenberg was outscored 13-10 in seven games before he returned to the lineup for a first round NCAA Division III Tournament loss to Carroll (Wisc.).
His injury in 2008 prevented Jenkins from earning All-NCAC honors for a fourth straight season after he earned first-team awards in 2005 and 2006 and second-team in 2007. In addition, Jenkins picked up first-team all-region honors in 2005.
Jenkins has been practicing with the Kings since late March, in preparation for the team's 2009 season. His first professional game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16, as the Kings host the Chicago Fire at their home stadium in the Town & Country Sports Complex.
The Tigers finished the 2008 season with records of 16-4-1 overall and 6-3 in the NCAC, good for a second-place tie. After breaking school records for wins in a season and consecutive victories (13), Wittenberg reached its first-ever NCAC Tournament title game, falling in a penalty kick shootout to Ohio Wesleyan, and earned their first NCAA Division III Tournament berth in 12 years. For the fifth time in national tournament play, however, Wittenberg lost a one-goal decision in the first round.
Wittenberg posted a four-year record of 43-22-12, including a mark of 20-11-6 in the rugged NCAC, with Borland and Jenkins in the program. The Tigers reached the NCAC Tournament, which was introduced in 2000, for the first time in 2007 and then reached the conference championship game for the first time ever in 2008, tying defending titlist Ohio Wesleyan 2-2 before losing the crown in a penalty kick shootout.
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Brad Tucker