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James Eley is the 12th person affiliated with the men's soccer program to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame at USC Upstate. Eley's induction also represents the third selection of a goalkeeper to the shrine.
Eley was a standout player from 1992-95, leading the men's soccer team to four straight appearances in the NCAA Division II Tournament. He helped lead his teams to two regular season Peach Belt Conference championships and four straight Peach Belt Conference Tournament titles. All four of his teams finished the regular season ranked in the Top 10 in the nation.
Eley held the reigns as the regular starting keeper in 1993, taking over the position after the graduation of Athletics Hall of Fame member Darren Ambrose. Eley did not miss a beat. He earned All-America, All-Region and All-Conference honors after posting 17 wins in goal and 0.96 goals against average. He again earned All-Region and All-Conference honors in 1994, being a part of 17 wins and posting a 1.08 goals against average.
However, it was the 1995 season that set Eley and his teammates apart from the rest. He helped lead the team to an appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championship game, the first time since the 1982 men's basketball team won the NAIA National Championship that a USC Upstate/Spartanburg team had played for a national title. Eley led the team to 17 wins for the third straight season and through the NCAA Division II Tournament before falling in the national championship game. Eley posted a 0.85 goals against average and was named All-Region and All-Conference for the third straight year and earned his second All-America selection.
Eley ranks fourth all-time with 38 credited wins and fourth with 22.5 shutouts. Goalkeepers who did not complete a full match shared wins and shutouts. In all, Eley played the majority of the matches in 54 wins and 28 shutouts. His 0.89 career goals against average ranks fifth all-time at Upstate, while his 187 saves is fourth all-time. He played 4,962 minutes in goal, second on the all-time list.
In addition to his prowess on the soccer field, he was a standout in the classroom. He was a four-time selection to the Peach Belt Conference Presidential Academic Honor Roll and was a Dean's List student.
A native of South Africa, Eley was drafted No. 2 into the MPSL indoor soccer league for Baltimore Spirit. He broke his arm on draft day and never played for the Spirit. However, he did go on to play professionally for the Huntsville Fire of the Eastern Indoor Soccer League and for the South Carolina Shamrocks. He currently owns an Atlanta Bread Company franchise on Woodruff Road in Greenville and is set to launch a pizza wholesale company, the Pizza Dome, in March. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, Aidan and Cameron.