Holley, Ramirez earn valuable time with Richmond Strikers

May 15, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. — Becoming the first Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) men’s soccer player to be featured in a U.S. Open Cup match will hopefully be the first of many positive experiences for sophomore Graham Holley over the next two months.

Holley, along with January transfer Salvador Ramirez, will strap up the boots for the Richmond Strikers of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The NPSL is the largest national soccer league in the country and acts as the fourth tier in the U.S. developmental pyramid. Virginia Tech bound Elias Tamburini also plays in the NPSL, currently with Nashville FC.

The Strikers fell to Aromas Cafe FC 2-1 in overtime May 11 in the opening round of the U.S. Open Cup as the opening rounds are reserved for the smaller clubs before the higher tiers join the tournament in the later rounds. Richmond, formerly known as Chesterfield FC, opened its NPSL slate Saturday (May 14) on the road in Williamsburg, Va. against Legacy 76.

PHCC coach Enda Crehan said he hopes to see more of his players in the coming years play in the NPSL as a way to train during the summer. Not only that, it gives them a chance to expose themselves and in Holley’s case, possibly open up doors for a potential scholarship after the fall season.

“I’m hoping I can get a little bit of exposure to some schools and hopefully earn a scholarship somehow,” Holley said. “I’m super excited and grateful for the opportunity coach (Eric) Dutt gave me. I hope everything works out.”

This is the first experience for both players in the NPSL system. Holley, who looks to become a captain for the Patriots next season, said he feels being part of the mix this summer will help his game grow. Likewise for Ramirez, who looks to become an offensive presence for the Patriots later this year.

Teams in the NPSL don’t have much time to train as a unit prior to the season as most of the players featured are current college athletes and come in on different schedules, finishing finals. One thing that can be expected, however, is that the competition level in training and on match day will continue to push each player in their desired directions.

“You always know you’re going to have pressure (to perform). You have to adapt to the speed of play and your talent level has to rise if you want to play,” Ramirez said. “When you see and play against players from across the country, and notice that you’re not a good as you think you are, it makes you work that much harder.”

Players from all levels of college soccer are featured on the team and within the division. Also, those who have graduated but still look to play competitively or bump up the professional ladder adds to the competitive nature of the league.

For Holley, that’s just fine.

“There are a lot of (NCAA) Division I players here from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida Gulf Coast and some others that used to play that are in their upper 20s, still trying to play competitively. Everyone takes it seriously and so you have to bring it every practice and that’s what I love about it,” Holley said.

Holley, who started in 16 of PHCC’s 18 matches last season, scored four goals and added an assist. Looking to become an anchor in the central defense for the Patriots, the time with Richmond also allows him to develop chemistry with Ramirez and finding ways to link up with the striker.

While the time in Richmond will only help the two players develop personally, it also will allow them to learn how to implement what they learn in training and apply it to game situations.

“It’s gaining valuable experience and moving what you learned in practice onto the field during games and play how the coach wants you to play,” Ramirez said.

Filed under: Men's Soccer