Photo courtesy of Tehya Hinkson
When Richard Friday came to Bryant and took over as the Hornets soccer coach, he got a nice surprise.
He didn’t have to search for a goalkeeper. In fact, he had two good ones in Logan Valestin and John Sohn. And, rather than choosing one over the other, he told them to work it out between them when one would play and when the other would.
“Logan likes to play in the first half and John likes to play in the second half,” he related. “It’s very rare that you get two goalkeepers that are both going to college that you can say, ‘Okay, you play one half and you play the other.’ A lot of times, you just pick one and stay with him.
“They’re both humble and they work really well together,” Friday added. “I think having them both together has really made each one of them better. They push each other.”
The duo has helped the Hornets put together an 11-6-1 season and a third-seed from the rugged 7A-Central Conference to the State Tournament next week.
On Thursday, May 4, both Sohn and Valestin made it official with as they signed letters of intent to continue their education and their soccer careers in college. Sohn, the son of Arielle Sohn, has signed with Lyon College in Batesville while Valestin, the son of Beverly Wills and Donovan Valestin, signed with the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville.
“He’s a big physical kid,” Friday said of Sohn. “His work ethic is tremendous. He’s the first one here and the last one out. His footwork is good and his ability to read the play, to really read the shot is really good. And his stretch is longer than what you’d think based on his size.
“He’s developing his ability this season to play with his feet,” he added. “He still needs some work with it but he’s improving.”
“I applied to a lot of schools, UCA, Williams Baptist, a school in Tennessee,” said Sohn. “I just really liked Lyon. Williams Baptist is a good school but their program that I was looking forward to studying was not really what I was looking for. Lyon had what I wanted and was a really nice school.”
Sohn plans on studying computer science.
“Everyone was like ‘Just go tryout, go tryout’ and I didn’t have any game clips from last year’s season because a lot of that got erased for some reason,” he recalled. “So I just contacted Lyon and they said come try out. I didn’t get a soccer scholarship but I did get an academic scholarship and an invitation to play.”
Regarding playing time, Sohn said, “There’s a freshman this year that was starting because the guy ahead of him tore his ACL. I might compete for a starting spot but I don’t know.”
Sohn said he started playing soccer when he was 4.
“I’ve always been competitive about soccer,” he related. “I think I was 8 years old when I started goal-keeping. My dad played goalkeeper growing up so I’d always wanted to play goalkeeper.”
Asked about the Hornets’ success this year, he said, “Just playing as a team, really; trying to keep together and play as a team because Coach (Jason) Hay was a great coach but, with the knowledge that Coach Friday brings and Coach (Joe) Teague’s weight training, I think we’ve gotten better.”
“Logan is very athletic,” Friday said. “He has a good reach with the ball. He’s kind of like Gumby in that he can bend and move any which way possible, which helps on his shot stopping. I think he’s really cerebral and really reads the game very well. He plays really well with both feet and you can use him as a target to get out of pressure.
“He’s just like John,” he added. “He’s the first one out there and the last one off the field. Sometimes you have to go and drag him kicking and screaming away so we can go home.”
After playing initially as a 6-year-old, Valestin had to take a break from the game when he got diagnosed with severe asthma.
“I still played other sports all the way up until I was 14,” he said. “I was in eighth grade and some of my friends were playing soccer in the parking lot at the middle school. They said, ‘Hey, you want to come play?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’ I fell in love with the sport. I wound up playing on my best friend’s rec team. I played the field about 40 minutes then they stuck me in goal and I fell in love with it. I’ve been playing it ever since then.
“From the start, I just wanted to play,” he mentioned. “I became very passionate about it. About my sophomore year when I came in here, I started to see all the development from constant training. I thought I might actually have a shot to do good things.
“Then when I made the Little Rock Rangers, a semi-pro team, that’s when I knew I had the ability to play college,” he continued. “Because I mean, I’m only in high school and I’m playing with people that played Division I, Division II college and I’m able to hang with them.”
Regarding his recruitment, Valestin said, “We had Showcase of the South, which is a tournament which pretty much all five states in the area all come and about 200-something college coaches come in there. He (Ozarks head coach Aaron Brueckner) came and watched me play and I just happened to have a really good game and I impressed him. So, the day after the Showcase, I got three contacts from three different coaches and the University of Ozarks happened to be one.
“About two weeks later, I went up and visited the school, trained with the team and I just really liked it,” he continued. “I made my decision to commit there about two weeks ago.”
One of the reasons Valestin chose the Clarksville school is the chance to play right away.
“I had offers from Regis University in Colorado, Division II,” he related. “I also had an opportunity to go to UCA but both of those things ended up falling out just because of playing time. I want to play as much as I can and Ozarks wanted me to come in and start my freshman year. I said, ‘That’s awesome. I’d like to get the experience.’ To play is really what I’m going after.”
In addition, the school itself was appealing.
“It’s actually a pretty nice campus,” Valestin said. “It’s a small school. There’s only like 700 students going there. My graduating class (at Bryant) has almost 700 people. It’s nice though. Everyone’s like family. Every meal, everything you do, you’re always with your teammates. I think it’s a good environment to develop in, especially as a young adult and as a soccer player.”
He plans on going pre-Med.
“I’ll probably either be a physician or go into maybe physical therapy,” he explained. “But I’ll probably be involved in athletics some way.”
Valestin said he’s enjoyed his senior season. “I’m incredibly happy with the team. We’re having a winning season. We finished third in the conference which is much better than last year when we finished fifth, almost didn’t qualify for State.
“I think the biggest difference is the fact that all the seniors care,” he added. “There are some people that — me and John (Sohn) are the only ones planning on playing after high school — but they all care. Since our freshmen year, we’ve wanted to win State. I think the past graduating classes, they just played it as a hobby. What sets us apart I think is that we all want to win a State title. We all want to prove ourselves and that Bryant can compete.”