FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas head women’s soccer coach Gordon Henderson announced the first wave of his 2006 signing class on Sunday afternoon with five players from states outside Arkansas’ normal recruiting base in what could be the start of his best class in his three seasons.
Mid-year signee Lindsay Corry headlines the group because of her international experience with the North Ireland U-17 and U-19 national teams, but Arizona’s Kelsey Martin, Idaho’s Kylee Mesler, Colorado’s Kathleen Paulson and North Carolina’s Rachel smith are each just as accomplished in their own regards and make the base for what could be a special class of recruits.
“I think that when you look at this class in reference to last year’s, there is no question that this one is potentially better,” Henderson said. “We were missing some things from our team last year and we addressed them with this class. There is a fierce drive in all the recruits, a never say die attitude and a physical toughness which will enhance our current team. We are losing some very important people to graduation and the remaining players must do a superb job to fill those gaps, but this class really does have the ability to begin to take Arkansas to the next level.”
Corry was a regular on Northern Ireland’s international teams prior to arriving in Arkansas prior to the spring semester. She participated in last summer’s U-19 World Championships before a concussion ended her run in the semifinals, but healthy again she arrived in Fayetteville ready to train and make a difference on Arkansas’ roster.
“Anytime you have a national team player, it can only mean good things,” Henderson gleamed. “She is a mainstay on the U-19 and U-17 national teams in Northern Ireland and recently and deservedly received a call up to the full squad. She reads the game well and plays forward for her club team and defender for the national team so that gives us more options.”
Martin joins Arkansas from Phoenix, Arizona, where she was a region IV pool player in 2004 and a regular on the Olympic development squad between 2001 and 2005. Her Sunrise Mountain High School team finished fourth at the regional championships and is currently playing at the state tournament.
“Kelsey is fast, a great leader and incredibly strong on the ball,” said Henderson. “She rarely loses it and passes very well. More importantly, she sees the subtle pass along with the longer ones. She is a hard-nosed player who hates to lose. Kelsey has the potential to be the best recruit out of this class.”
Arkansas’ first ever recruit from the state of Idaho, Mesler is a Boise native and has been a part of five club state championship teams and a member of the Idaho state ODP squad. She has been named all-conference three times and could play anywhere in the center of the field for Arkansas from defense to midfield.
“Kylee is very athletic and strong,” Henderson said. She is a superb 1-v-1 defender and a ball winner. She rarely loses a tackle and brings confidence as well as a dominating presence to the team. She is a region 4 pool player and when you consider the depth and talent in that region it is a testament to her abilities. She is generally recognized as the best defender in the state of Idaho.”
Tapping into the soccer goldmine of Colorado, Littleton native Paulson has been recognized at every level in which she has played. An all-conference selection as a freshman, she was named first-team all-state (for the second time) and all-conference her junior season and is eagerly anticipating her senior campaign which begins in March. The leader of her Faith Christian Academy team, Paulson was paramount to the squad’s state championship in 2005 and state semi-final and final runs in 2003 and ’04, respectively.
“Kathleen plays on one of the best club teams in the country,” Henderson said. “She is a true center midfielder or forward and can play either facing or with her back to the goal. She is best described as a smooth player and is comfortable under pressure. She dominates in the air and can give us a presence that we don’t have right now.”
Wrapping up the first part of Arkansas’ class is North Carolina sensation Rachel Smith. A defender/midfielder from Charlotte, Smith was an all-state performer as a junior and all-region and all-conference her sophomore and junior seasons. She won four state championships with the Charlotte Soccer Club and was named to the Super-Y regional team.
“A real fireball,” Henderson pointed out. “She is very quick with a wicked left foot. She gives us a serve and cross from the flank that we lack and never gives up on any play. One of her strengths is her versatility and she can single handedly carry the team when she needs to. We are expecting big things from Rachel. She plays on a very good club team that won a state title and she was one of the essential components to their success.”
The remainder of Arkansas’ 2006 soccer signing class will be released on Tuesday, Feb. 7. For more information about Lady Razorback soccer or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.