BUIES CREEK, N.C. - The Campbell University women's soccer team, led by eighth-year head coach Todd Clark, have announced three additions to the 2013 recruiting class. Vilma Viola Ahlholm, Lilja Madeleine Bjork, and Nicole Connolly are Fighting Camels after signing National Letters of Intent and will join the team in August for the preseason.
Ahlholm comes to CU from Boo FF, where she is coached by Sean O'Connor. She is a player who can play anywhere in the defense and in central midfield. Her team has finished at champions of the Dana Cup in Denmark as well as the SM-Cup in Sweden and third in the Gothia Cup. She will graduate from Nacka Gymnasium in June and intends to study marketing at Campbell. While at Nacka Gymnasium she played for Christofer Andersson, winning the district tournament this past season. She was also a district player for the Stockholm area en route to a spot with the Swedish national side as a younger player. Vilma is the daughter of Hans and Linda and has three brothers: Rasmus, Oskar, and Melker.
"Vilma is a player I was able to find through a friend who not only coaches in Sweden but has also been a college coach here in the US," Clark said. "She is a perfect blend of the athleticism international players need to bring to be successful in our game but also the tactical and technical aspects that give our teams a unique look. She is a "hard" player who will be strong defensively, whether in the back or in central midfield. She has grown up in a club that is very progressive and has had some excellent opportunities to train and compete that will now help Campbell with her addition."
Bjork is a striker from Solna, Sweden. She will join the Camels with the experience of playing for two of the giants of Stockholm women's game: AIK, where she grew up, and her current club, Tyresso DFF. While with AIK, she won Gothia Cup titles in 2010 and 2012. Graduating from Atleticagymnasiet in June, her team has won both indoor and outdoor district championships under Robert Granstrom. She is the daughter of Hans and Anette and has three siblings: Linnea, and twins Edvin and Elvira. She plans on studying economics and social sciences while at Campbell University.
"Lilly is a player I have seen off and on for probably about three years and is someone who kept coming in and out of the picture as we were listening to former players who are back in Stockholm and friends in the game," Clark commented. "It took a lot of persistence but I am really happy she has decided, with the options that she had, that Campbell was the place she felt the most comfortable. She is a very strong player and even in the Gothia Cup final last year you could see her impact as a physical front runner who will fight for every free ball. She moves off the ball well, understands the game at a high level, and through her commitment to do whatever necessary to score, will help our team as we seek to return the Big South Conference finals."
Connolly is a defender who also has experience as a central midfield player. She is from Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland where she has appeared over fifty times for the U17, U19 and full national team. Her most recent caps were during the U19 UEFA elite qualifying rounds held in Portugal where her side faced Iceland, Finland and the hosts. She plays her club ball for Lynn Baird with Crusaders Newtonabbey Strikers, with whom she has also competed in the UEFA Champions League. She has also been a part of the program's five Irish Premier League titles and two Irish Women's Cup winning sides. Connolly is the daughter of Kieran and Margaret Connolly and has one brother Christopher. Her father was on the books for Middlesbourgh and was an All-Ireland University player himself, while her brother has represented Northern Ireland in track; particularly the 800 meter distance. She plans on studying kinesiology while at Campbell.
"I am excited to add a player with the experience of Nicole to our team," Clark said. "Knowing what I do about the ongoing development of the women's programs under the direction of the IFA, I feel very comfortable in her impact as she comes well recommended from Gail Macklin (current Northern Ireland assistant and former Southern Mississippi coach) and her time under head coach Alfie Wylie and his staff will have prepared her well for this opportunity. Seeing her play in international competition convinced us she was a player we needed in our team and in speaking to her we will not disappointed that she is someone who will do well in The Creek. There will be a time of transition as there always is for international players coming over but she has been tested at a very high level over her time in various Northern Ireland squads and with the Crusaders and I am thrilled to have that to draw upon in our team."
The three players join seven others coming to Buies Creek this fall. "The 2013 class was already an excellent group of young players that we expect to make an immediate impact on Fighting Camel soccer, but the latest additions make it even more exciting," Clark commented. "This year is perhaps unique in the number of players, but as each one committed we continually found ourselves hearing from another, so that we know feel somewhat spoiled with the great fortune we feel we have had. Things just kept presenting themselves over the past month and it has been fantastic!"
"Many universities give lip service to 'diversity' but it is exciting to be a part of a place that has helped me personally make that a reality for not only our team, but the campus," Clark continued. "It is something that I enjoy being a part of and have certainly benefitted from over the years as a coach and a person. Each of the internationals we have brought in will do well in classroom and on the field just like their domestic peers and all that have come before them. Our former players and friends, both foreign and domestic, have paid the program the highest compliment in suggesting and encouraging others who might join us, and that can be seen in this group. Our staff has worked hard identifying and recruiting, but more importantly, at building the relationships that have brought the 2013 class to The Creek. Ultimately all the 'on paper' excitement has to be translated to the field, but as far as recruiting is concerned, we are very happy with how things are shaping up for 2013 so far."