COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The Texas A&M Soccer team received a signed National Letter of Intent from Dallas Sting standout McKayla Paulson on Wednesday, Head Coach G Guerrieri announced, adding to what has already been a major haul for the 2014 signing class.
Paulson, a native of Mansfield, will join three early enrollees who arrived in College Station in January. Mikaela Harvey of Liberty Hill, Stephanie Malherbe of Temecula, Calif., and Haley Pounds of The Woodlands began classes on January 13 and have been taking part in individual workouts and strength & conditioning sessions as members of the squad.
"2014 is a really exciting year, starting with today in February,” Guerrieri said. “Each of these young ladies is special and among the most talented players in the country. Collectively they can help our championship caliber program move toward achieving our lofty team goals in 2014 and beyond.”
The Aggies pride themselves on the fluidity of their system, but the four newcomers will have positions placed by their names for the sake of rosters. Paulson is expected to challenge for playing time early as a defender. Harvey is penciled in as a midfielder. Pounds is slated to start her career as a forward. Malherbe will see early action as a forward and midfielder.
“We love the versatility of this class,” Guerrieri said. “All of these girls can compete anywhere on the field. We think the short fall of a lot of programs is that the coach only sees the game in one way and has his or her system. They try to put whatever shape peg the kids are into those holes. I give a lot of our credit to Associate Head Coach Phil Stephenson who has done such a great job in recruiting this class, as did Lori Stephenson. Phil does a great job of developing these players and helping them to understand that our system is about them.
“It’s a player’s game. We want the game to be fun and we want them to play with passion. The best way to do that is to find the system each year that fits the personalities and the way the girls play. All of these players are versatile and experienced enough in their youth careers, so we know they can handle whatever system we put in. We also know they haven’t come close peaking on their game, so they’ll thrive with each new challenge.”
Paulson has been a member of Dallas Sting for the last six years and a four-year letterwinner at Mansfield High School. She helped Dallas Sting to runner-up finishes at the ECNL National Championships in both 2012 and 2013. In 2012 she was named to the ECNL National Championships All-Cup team. She led her Dallas Sting squad to a United States Youth Soccer third-place showing in 2011 and runner-up finish in 2010. Her club team won a North Texas State Cup title and USYS Region III championship in 2011.
A three-year captain at Mansfield, Paulson earned Class 5A All-State Second Team and District 7-5A Player of the Year as a junior, leading the Tigers to a District 7-5A title and Bi-District championship. She garnered All-District 7-5A First Team accolades in each of her first three seasons as well as District 7-5A Offensive MVP as a sophomore and Defensive MVP as a freshman. In the classroom, she earned Academic All-State as a senior and Academic All-District all four years.
“McKayla comes from the Dallas Sting Club, one of the most celebrated clubs among all of the U.S. Clubs,” Guerrieri said. “She has had some wonderful coaches helping her develop along the way. She can play in any of the four spots along the backline and I think she will make an impact there early. She has good speed, she’s tall and she has good skills. She’s an excellent student, ranked in the top three in her high school class. “
For the past four years Harvey has been a member of U.S. National Teams (U14 – U18). Last season, she was named to the NSCAA Youth Girls All-America team. She was a three year letterwinner at Hendrickson High School where she garnered Academic All-District, Midfield MVP, All-Region Second Team. Harvey played an integral role for the Lonestar Soccer Club for seven seasons which she helped the squad to the ECNL national championship in 2011, scoring the game-winning goal in the title match.
“Miki is one of these players that we would argue that if she’s not the best player in the country, she’s one of the most elite level players in the country,” Guerrieri said. “She’s not the biggest of players. She comes in a small package, but she is a real firecracker on the field. She’s not only a great supplier of service, but she’s a great scorer as well. A typical game for her with her Lonestars SC team would be to score a goal, assist on a couple of goals and she’d be kicked the whole game by the other team because they knew she was the best player on the field. She’s had great coaching from Don Cameron and JD Cochran at Lonestars. I know are fans are going to embrace her as someone who is going to be really influential in our future success.
Malherbe was a three year letterwinner at Great Oak High School in Temecula, California, where she helped lead the squad to Southern Section titles as a sophomore and junior. She was the Southwestern League Player of the Year as a junior and earned all-league honors her sophomore and junior seasons. Malherbe has been a member of the SoCal Blues Soccer Club since 2008 and she has been involved with the CalSouth ODP squad since 2007, helping the squad win regional titles in 2009, ’11 and ’12 and national titles in 2012 and ’13. Last April she participated in the US Youth Soccer ODP National Camp in Chula Vista, California.
“Stephanie is another great attacking player,” Guerrieri said. “She is someone that we think can play in six different positions for us. She's very good out wide. She can play up high as a lone striker if we needed her to. She’s done a great job already in training since arriving on campus. Stephanie is a product of the SoCal Blues in Orange County. Coach Larry Draluck and the rest of the staff have done an awesome job of developing her into not only a great player, but from what we’ve seen so far, a very good teammate. Steph is someone that we think will be really special.”
Pounds participated in U.S. National Team Camp on the U-14, U-15, U-16 and U-18 levels. She led the Challenge ’96 Soccer Club to the State Cup championship in 2008 and ’11. She guided them to a Region III quarterfinal appearance in 2009 and semifinal spot in 2010. Pounds was a three-sport standout at The Woodlands Christian Academy, twice earning first team all-district accolades in basketball, TAPPS 3A All-State Second Team in the triple jump and first-team TAPPS All-District 4-3A in the triple jump, 400 meters, 800 meters and 4x200 meters. Pounds was also a standout in the classroom, earning Academic All-State honors in basketball.
“The pipeline for Haley coming to A&M is not only Challenge SC, where the coaches Stuart Self, Pat O’Toole, Smitty (Dave Smith) and the rest of the staff there do wonders for her on the soccer side, but from her bloodline,” Guerrieri said. “She has pure Aggie blood running through her veins. She’s a third-generation Aggie. Her grandfather actually has an endowed scholarship named after him. They are a first-class, wonderful Aggie family.
“Haley is another one of those players who, I don’t think I would put her in goal, but I’d feel comfortable playing her anywhere else on the field. She might be our fastest player right now. She’s right up there in the speed category with Shea Groom and Annie Kunz. She has incredible explosion. She’s a proven goal scorer with a lot of national team experience. She had an opportunity to play at any of the top programs you can think of off the top of your head, so to have her come here is really special. And she’s one the best kids you could ever be around. She’s going to be a great role model for future Aggies.”
The Aggies finished the season ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll. A&M posted an 18-5-2 record for the year and claimed their first-ever SEC regular-season title with a 9-2-0 league ledger. The Aggies also captured their first-ever SEC Tournament title, besting Florida 2-1 in the championship match in Orange Beach. The Maroon and White appeared in their 19th consecutive NCAA Division I Championship, advanced to the Second Round for the 16th consecutive year and appeared in the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in program history.
A&M returns 10 starters from the 2013 squad, with the only departures being four-year starter on defense, Rachel Lenz, and one-year letterwinner Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar who saw action off the bench in 13 matches.
“The class we signed today would be an impactful class no matter what the team was we had returning,” Guerrieri said. “It’s one of the most exceptional classes we’ve had in the 21 years of the program. With the players we have returning and the expectations we have in that locker room following a season in which we won a lot of hardware, we’re really looking forward to the 2014 season.”
The 12th Man can see the three early enrollees in action for the first time at Texas A&M on Saturday when the Aggies play a Maroon and White Match at Ellis Field starting at 7 pm.
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