Pair of Stoney soccer standouts headed to the Big Ten

By: Timothy Pontzer | Rochester Post | Published February 13, 2018

 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek seniors Kevin Buca, left, and Bobby Harris signed with their respective college programs Feb. 7. Friends since elementary school, the pair will head to separate Big Ten schools to continue their soccer careers.

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek seniors Kevin Buca, left, and Bobby Harris signed with their respective college programs Feb. 7. Friends since elementary school, the pair will head to separate Big Ten schools to continue their soccer careers.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROCHESTER HILLS — Eight senior student-athletes officially put pen to paper Feb. 7 at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, selecting where they will continue their sporting careers in college.

For a pair of soccer standouts, their journey will lead to the Big Ten Conference. Close friends since elementary school, Kevin Buca and Bobby Harris have grown accustomed to facing off at the youth and club levels.

That trend will continue, as Buca will stay in-state as a Michigan Wolverine while Harris is headed to the University of Wisconsin.

“We’ve played against each other since we were 9 years old, but we have trained for countless hours together,” Buca said after the ceremony. “It honestly will be hard being away from each other for the first time since we were little, but seeing him on the field will be exciting. When that time comes, it will definitely be memorable.”

Harris said the pair have been imagining the moment when their respective collegiate clubs clash for a long time, something he expects to be both surreal and satisfying.

“We’ve been playing against each other for so long, but we always try to help each other out,” Harris explained. “We train here at Stoney all the time and then go up to Lifetime Fitness. When we play in college, it’s going to feel weird, but it will be a lot of fun.”

Buca has starred on the pitch all across the club level, playing in Spain, Scotland and Sweden. Here in the United States, he served as captain of Vardar Academy, leading the top academy team in playoff goals last year.

“Vardar helped me by providing great training and the top competition available,” Buca said. “Going to Michigan is a dream come true. I’ve been a fan since I was little, and the culture and soccer program is unbelievable. They were the Big Ten champions last year, so to be part of that is going to be amazing.”

Despite being an academy player, Buca kept close relationships with Harris and the other Stoney Creek players. Cougars coach Doug Steinard allowed Buca to be as much a part of the program as the rules allowed.

“He was kind of a student manager for us. He would come to our games and practices whenever he could,” Steinard said. “He wasn’t allowed to practice, but he would be there to help out with what he was allowed to do. The boys love Buca. He’s a fantastic player, and he was a big part of the team even though he wasn’t officially on it.”

Buca said he truly appreciated being welcomed in even though he never suited up for the Cougars.

“Being part of the Stoney family taught me a sense of togetherness,” Buca remarked. “I learned great leadership and character skills even though I wasn’t playing.”

Harris had a similar experience, playing for Waza through middle school and his freshman season. He was close friends with many on the Stoney roster, so he chose to play at the prep level his sophomore season.

He joined Buca at Vardar during their junior and senior seasons, but halfway through his final year he wanted to return to the Cougars. Steinard welcomed the star forward with open arms.

“It was kind of a little trade deadline move for us, quite the pickup,” Steinard said with a laugh. “He had the desire to finish out his career in high school, and we worked him into the lineup. He did great for us in the last quarter of the year once he was acclimated, and I’m really glad he got that experience he wanted.”

Harris said he was thrilled to get the opportunity to close things out with the Cougars.

“I chose to play academy to get exposure at the highest level,” Harris said. “I knew I would be accepted back here because I played before, and I knew I could get the same training and coaching from Steinard. He allowed me to work with all different kinds of players and taught me how to find success as a team.”

Steinard said he looks forward to tracking the duo’s progress at the college level.

“These are both great kids; I’m very proud of them,” Steinard said. “They both work hard and have a passion for the game. Not many freshmen start in the Big Ten, but they’re great players who have great attitude and skills, so I expect them to find their way out on the field and contribute.”

The other six Cougars who signed letters of intent at the ceremony were Cole LaFave (Siena Heights, football), Michael Melaragni (Western Michigan, soccer), Griffin Green (Denison University, football), Jacob Heberling (Michigan State, diving), Isabella Ubaydi (Roanoke College, soccer) and Nate Davis (Hope College, basketball).