Belmont men’s soccer announces eight additions for 2021 season
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont University men’s soccer program and head coach David Costa announced the addition of eight newcomers Thursday. Featuring five transfers and a trio of freshmen, the talented 2021 signing class will assist the Bruins this fall and beyond.
“We are excited to welcome this class to the Belmont family,” remarked coach Costa. “This group has a great blend of character, experience, and championship success that we expect to strengthen our program immediately. We look forward to seeing these student-athletes develop on and off the field in the coming years.”
A championship pedigree highlights the signing class with two NCAA Division I conference champions and three high school state champions. The new additions include Kentucky transfer defender Case Cox, Coastal Carolina transfer forward Esteban Leiva, Xavier transfers Davis Eddleman (midfielder) and Nate Logan (goalkeeper), Fordham transfer goalkeeper Aaron Stafford, freshmen midfielders Alex Johnson and Cade MacLean, and freshman defender Dylan Steely.
A member of two NCAA Tournament teams as a Wildcat, Cox played in 12 games at Kentucky in 2020-21 where he averaged 21.3 minutes a match. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2019, Cox recorded two shots on goal this spring. He was twice named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll after an illustrious prep career. A two-time high school state champion, Cox competed for Javanon FC in club soccer where his team reached the national semifinals in 2016 after capturing a regional title. Named National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) Player of the Year, Cox was a member of the US Youth Soccer National Championships Best XI team. He was twice tabbed all-state and was selected to the all-tournament team at the state championship. An All-American by both USA Today and TopDrawerSoccer.com, Cox participated in the high school All-American game.
Why Belmont: “It is somewhere I know I will be appreciated and somewhere I know I will call home.”
Leiva played an integral role in Coastal Carolina’s 2020-21 success, aiding the Chanticleers to both a Sun Belt Conference regular season and tournament championship. After making one of Coastal Carolina’s first three penalty kicks in the 4-3 PK win over Georgia State for the Sun Belt title, Leiva was named to the 2020 Sun Belt Men’s Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team. He appeared 10 games for the Chanticleers, averaging 28.4 minutes per match with two goals and an assist. Competing for Deportivo Saprissa in Costa Rica, Leiva was the top scorer in the Unión de Clubes de Fútbol de la Primera División (UNAFUT) in both 2015 and 2017 as he led the team to U15, U17 and U20 championships.
Why Belmont: “Belmont stood out to me from the very first time coach Costa got in contact with me. Alongside the successful soccer program, the historic campus and beautiful city provided the perfect place for me to continue my education and soccer career.”
A two-year letter winner at Xavier, Eddleman was named to the 2020-21 BIG EAST All-Academic Team after playing in seven matches as a true freshman. He logged 112 minutes during the 2019 season, including seeing action on the field for a season-high 34 minutes against UNC Asheville, and took two shots. Ranked as the No. 18 recruit in the South Atlantic Region and No. 149 recruit nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com, Eddleman was a member of the 2016 ODP (Olympic Development Program) Georgia national championship team and 2016 UFA (United Futbol Academy) National League championship team. A Georgia State Cup champion, Eddleman notched 10 or more goals every season in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy (USSDA) competing for Concorde Fire. Eddleman was also a Change4Georgia Community Service Award recipient.
Why Belmont: “The culture coach Costa has developed here is elite to say the least. After meeting a few of the guys and going through the recruiting process, I’m confident I’m joining a group of guys who are destined to succeed and excel. Coming to play in Tennessee is huge for me as well. I have family members all over Tennessee and Georgia and getting to be closer to them again means a lot. Belmont is a renowned university, and I am blessed by having the opportunity to attend here and play for this up-and-coming team.”
A four-year member of the Xavier program, Logan claimed BIG EAST All-Academic Team honors for four-straight seasons. He saw action in goal as both a redshirt freshman in 2018 and redshirt junior this past spring. Named to the 2016 All-Midwest First Team at LaSalle High School, Logan claimed All-Ohio First Team accolades and was tabbed 2016 Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Division I Cincinnati Player of the year. Additionally, he was selected as 2016 Cincinnati Enquirer OHSAA Division I Player of the Year and competed for Cincinnati United Premier in club soccer.
Why Belmont: “As soon as I started being recruited by Belmont, I immediately felt the genuine care the coaching staff has for their players. I felt very valued and looked out for. Everyone I have interacted with at the university since starting this process has only wanted the best for me.”
Spending a pair of seasons in the Atlantic 10 Conference at Fordham, Stafford landed a spot on the A-10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll as a true freshman in 2019. He was a member of the Rams’ fourth A-10 Championship title in 2020-21. Prior to his time in New York, Stafford played at the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, where he graduated with honors and was a member of the National Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society. Competing on the top ranked U19 team in Georgia, Stafford helped the Darlington School Soccer Academy win the U19 Jefferson Cup Championship and the U19 Indianapolis Showcase Championship. In 2018, Stafford trained with the U.S. Virgin Islands men’s national team and has also trained with Fulham F.C.
Why Belmont: “The coaches and staff are as committed to me as I am to the team. In addition, Belmont offers an academically challenging and rewarding kinesiology program.”
Assisting Grace Christian Academy to a state championship in 2019 after a regional title in 2018, Johnson garnered all-state accolades from the Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association (THSSCA). The Williamson County product also picked up Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) All-District 10-A honors as both a sophomore and junior and was named 2018 TSSAA District 10-A Tournament MVP and 2017 TSSAA District 11 A/AA Tournament MVP. Helping lead Grace Christian to a TSSAA District 11 A/AA championship as a true freshman in 2017, Johnson was tabbed all-district. He competed for Tennessee Soccer Club of the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) and was a member of the 2015 ODP Team 1. Johnson earned a spot on the 2020 honor roll in the classroom.
Why Belmont: “I have always wanted to play high-level soccer in college. Belmont offers both a great education and a competitive soccer environment.”
Taking Station Camp High School to a pair of state championship games during his varsity career, MacLean won a state title as a true freshman in 2017 before being selected all-region as a sophomore in 2018. MacLean competed for Tennessee United Soccer Club where he claimed back-to-back state championships at the division I club level and reached three consecutive state title matches. As a member of the Tennessee ODP first team MacLean was placed on the all-region team. He recorded over 100 goals for TN United SC and graduated with honors while taking AP classes.
Why Belmont: “I’m so excited for the opportunity to play soccer at Belmont. The coaching staff and players were so welcoming and made me want to be part of this program. The values coach Costa wants to instill in his players is something that I want to be a part of and learn from.”
An Alabama Class 7A state champion at Hoover High School, Steely is a two-time all-state performer and two-time ECNL national qualifier with Alabama FC. Winning the state title in 2019 with Hoover, Steely’s Alabama FC squad reached the round of 16 at nationals in 2018-19. Steely was named Alabama Class 7A All-State First Team following the 2019-20 season and Alabama Class 7A All-State Second Team at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. He also picked up Alabama All-Metro Team accolades and was the 2018-19 coach’s character award recipient, not to mention serving as team captain for both Hoover and Alabama FC his final two years. In the classroom, Steely was on the A/B honor roll and was a member of the National Art Honor Society and the National Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society.
Why Belmont: “I was very impressed with campus during my visit, and I have always liked Nashville. The greatest influence was the rapport I built talking to coach Costa frequently over the last few months.”
Belmont is coming off a very strong spring campaign, one in which the Bruins reached their first-ever conference tournament championship match with a 3-1 win over top-seeded and 25th-ranked Furman in the Southern Conference Championship semifinals. Posting a 7-3-2 record in the unique season, Belmont set program records for winning percentage (.667) and consecutive matches without a loss (7). The Bruins also tied the school record for shutouts in a single season (6).
Exhibition contests against the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) at E.S. Rose Park on Monday, Aug. 16 and at Memphis on Friday, Aug. 20 begin Belmont’s fall. The Bruins’ regular season kicks off Thursday, Aug. 26 at Missouri State in Springfield, Missouri.