February 12, 2009

Gauchos Sign Six Prep Stars to National Letters of Intent

Feb. 12, 2009

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's soccer program, coming off of an NCAA Tournament appearance, has signed six high school players to National Letters of Intent, head coach Paul Stumpf announced Thursday.

The Gauchos' signing class includes three strikers, one goalkeeper, one midfielder, and one defender.

"I am very excited about this group," Stumpf said. "Combined with the talent we have coming back from last season, we should be in great shape in the future."

The signing class includes goalkeeper Taina Ortiz (Centennial HS/Corona, Calif.), midfielder Erin Ortega (Saugus HS/Saugus, Calif.), defender Abby Brogan (Poly HS/San Marino, Calif.), and strikers Lauren Kennedy (Esperanza HS/Yorba Linda, Calif.), Victoria Thomas (St. Francis HS/Folsom, Calif.), and Maddy Johnson (Lake Oswego HS/Lake Oswego, Ore.).

Ortiz may be the gem of the class. She had an outstanding year in 2008, winning a national championship as a member of the Southern California Blues u-17s and representing Puerto Rico in the u-17 CONCACAF tournament last summer in Trinidad & Tobago.

"Taina is a great shot-stopper," Stumpf said of the 5-foot-9 Ortiz. "She reads the game well and is exceptional with her feet. She used to play center midfield for her club team before transitioning into the keeper position full-time."

Ortega is a versatile midfielder who can play either the middle or on the outside. On the club level she plays for Real So Cal u-19s.

"Erin has good speed, is very fit, and covers a lot of ground," assessed Stumpf. "Her technical ability is also a strength, and we see her playing as an attack-minded outside back or central midfielder in our 4-3-3 system."

Brogan, the lone defender of the signing class, plays for the Camarillo Eagles u-19s. At 5-foot-8, she has good size, as well as good speed.

"She was a late pick-up for us, but we are excited about her," Stumpf said of Brogan. "She is a central defender/holding central midfielder who has good speed, good technical ability, and tackles well. She is a nice swing player, but can also play-make going forward."

Kennedy, a member of the Slammers u-19 club, is 5-foot-4 and, according to Stumpf, a pure striker.

"She hasn't met a shot she didn't like," he said. "She looks to score on every possession and we really like that about her. Lauren is a great ball-striker and moves very well off of the ball, both to get open and create space for others. She can play either as a target or wide striker."

In contrast to the 5-foot-4 Kennedy, Thomas and Johnson are both 5-foot-11 strikers.

"Victoria has a long, lean frame, and moves very well for her length," Stumpf said. "She is very technical and smart with the ball. We recruited her to play as a target-type of striker, but the more we see her play, the more we are convinced she has the pace to play out wide as well."

A proven goal-scorer for her club team, San Juan Spirits u-19s, Thomas plans to move up two age groups to prepare her for the college game.

Johnson, the sister of UCSB women's basketball player Margaret Johnson, plays for the Lake Oswego Soul Crew u-19s.

"We first met Maddy on one of her visits to see her sister play," Stumpf recalled. "The first time we saw her play was in Las Vegas, and what caught our eye was how well this taller player moved. She has good speed and quickness. She mixes-up her game as a post-up striker. She lays balls off well, turns to take people on, and can create shots and crosses for herself. We really like her courage in attacking headers in the traffic of a penalty box."

In addition to the six newcomers, the Gauchos expect to return their top six scorers from a 2008 team that scored 40 goals, went 12-7-3, and won its first Big West Tournament title ever. Among the key returnees are Big West Offensive Player of the Year Genelle Ives (nine goals and seven assists for 25 points) as well as First Team All-Big West midfielder Jacqui Simon (six goals and eight assists for 20 points) and Second Team All-Big West forward Kylie McDonald (five goals and eight assists for 18 points).

"I am very excited about the blend of returnees and talented newcomers that we will have on the field in 2009," stated Stumpf. "Without question, we have an opportunity to be very successful."

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