Lorne Bickley is now back in his native England, but he leaves behind a legacy at Wilmington University that will be hard to match — both on the soccer field and in the classroom.
Bickley was named the 2019 D2CCA Ron Lenz National Player of the Year after leading the nation with 26 goals and 55 points, both Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and WilmU records. He is the first Wildcat to earn a National Player of the Year award in any sport in the NCAA era, and only the second player from the East Region to earn the award for men’s soccer.
He also became just the seventh Wildcat in Athletic Department history to be named a CoSIDA Academic All-American, which gives equal weight to academics and athletic achievement. Bickley earned a degree in Sports Management in just three-and-a-half years.
Wilmington Soccer Coach Nick Papanicolas snagged Bickley during a one-week recruiting trip to England in 2015. Along with about 150 other coaches, he watched the lean, 6-4 forward perform in a showcase event. Afterward, Papanicolas sat down with Bickley and his mother and told them about WilmU. A few weeks later, Bickley accepted a scholarship to the University.
He had an immediate impact on the soccer program, earning Rookie of the Year and first team All-CACC honors as a freshman.
“Lorne is what we call a one-touch finisher,” says Papanicolas. “His 26 goals for 2019 will be a very difficult record to break for future strikers.”
Papanicolas says Bickley “was a pleasure to coach.” What’s more, many members of the team are from other countries, and Bickley “mentored some of the younger players to help them adjust to college life in the U.S.,” the coach says.
Bickley himself had to explain to teammates and others that he was from Jersey, but not New Jersey. “I’m from Jersey, Channel Islands,” he says. “It’s a tiny Island situated in between England and France.”
In fact, New Jersey was named for that island. King Charles II gave the colony to his brother James, Duke of York, and James later named it New Jersey to honor Sir George Carteret, who had been governor of Jersey. “They copied the name from us,” Bickley jokes.
He will be living in Jersey during the off-season after signing with Hartlepool United to play in England’s National League. He joined the team in March, but unfortunately the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the meantime, says the 22-year-old striker, “I’m training hard in preparation for next season, whenever that may begin. I’m keeping focused in order to have the best season I can, constantly looking to improve.”
Bickley credits Papanicolas and Wilmington University for “the best four years of my life.”
“I was able to play full-time soccer and meet friends and coaches which I would now class as family,” he explains.
Among his fondest memories of his time here: “Never losing at home in two seasons; trips to California and Florida for pre-season; and being lucky enough to graduate and my family flying in for the ceremony.”
He says the University opened many doors for him. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity I have been given. It allowed me to be the person I am today.”