FAYETTEVILLE – Headlined by England U19-national team goalkeeper Carly Telford, University of Arkansas head soccer coach Gordon Henderson announced the signing of six standout soccer players for his 2005 recruiting class on Thursday. Telford joins Arkansas native Whitney Allison, Leah Collison, Megan Fawley, Lindsay Patterson and Abbey Wilburn as Henderson’s first true recruiting class since he took over the Arkansas program in December of 2003.
“In putting this class together it was very important for us to achieve some goals,” Henderson said of the class. “One of those was team speed and we did that and then some. Another was versatility on the field and we achieved that and we also wanted personalities to give us more bite and we’ve done that as well. When it is all said and done, I wouldn’t be surprised if this class is one of the best in the last 10-15 years.”
Telford comes to Arkansas having spent the past several years as the starting goalkeeper for the Sunderland Football Club. With her in goal, Sunderland is leading the Northern Division and has entered the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. She has been a fixture on the English national team age group teams since she was 15-years-old and was just called up to the U21 camp. Just recently, Telford was awarded the Young Achiever of the Year honor for Northern England by the county of Durham.
“Her resume is second to none and is unequivocally one of the top soccer recruits ever at Arkansas,” Henderson said. “When she was only 15 she was playing for the U17 national team in England. She was 16 when she was first capped for the U19 national team and now at 17 she was just called up to the U21 camp. The English national team staff is grooming her to be the national team keeper in a short time. She has a slender build with a very good vertical, long arms and wingspan which is very good for a women’s keeper. She is exceptional with the ball at her feet and is used to playing a sweep goalkeeper’s style, distributing the ball and marshaling the defense very well. She controls the penalty box both on the ground and in the air.”
Allison is the lone recruit from the state of Arkansas, hailing from Conway. A two-time all-state selection heading into her senior season, Allison was the first sophomore to be recognized as an all-state athlete in soccer. She has led the Conway High School Wampus Cats in scoring in each of her three seasons and in 2004 was instrumental in the team’s run in the state tournament. She holds the Conway High School records for most goals and assists.
“Whitney will be an important part of the puzzle for us,” said Henderson. “She bleeds Arkansas red and you can’t coach that, you can only desire it from your players. I think that the trait will be infectious to the team and on top of that she brings an athletic ability that we look for in all our players. She could develop into a flank defender and her potential is unlimited.”
The 2005 soccer recruiting class wraps up with four players from the state of Texas in Collison, Fawley, Patterson and Wilburn. Collison is no stranger to winning programs having won three district titles with the Cinco Ranch High School Cougars and two state titles with her club the Texas Premier. She has been named all-district two times and as a sophomore was the third leading scorer in her high school’s district.
“Any time you have a legacy returning to the University it is important,” Henderson said. “Her parents Bill and Terie both graduated from Arkansas. Leah is a versatile player that is predominantly left sided and can play a flank midfielder role or forward. She is very quick and serves a magnificent ball. She’s strong with a good eye for the goal, has a terrific work rate and a commitment to learn. Leah is going to be a very good player and definitely has the potential to come in and see significant minutes.”
A Richardson, Texas, native, Fawley was a two-sport athlete for J.J. Pearce High School where she excelled in soccer and track. A team captain in her senior season with the Mustangs, Fawley has led her team to three district championships and a regional championship. She has been named all-district two times and was a second-team all-Dallas/Fort Worth defender as a junior.
“Megan is fast, intelligent, crafty and technically very sound with the ability to play multiple roles,” Henderson said. “She is probably more of a defensive player which indicates to me that she could be a very good flank or central defender. She is very good in the air for her size and is flat out tough to beat 1-v-1. She is another player that is dedicated to the game and once here would run through a brick wall when playing for Arkansas.”
One of two solid goal scorers brought in for the 2005 season Patterson hails from Lewisville, Texas and has scored 28 goals in just over two seasons with Lewisville High school. The Fightin’ Farmers offensive MVP as a junior, Patterson scored nine goals and added six assists last season as she also took first-team all-district honors. As a freshman she was the district’s newcomer of the year and was also an all-area selection.
“Lindsay will do very well in the SEC,” said Henderson. “She is incredibly strong in the air with pretty good pace for a tall woman. She has a very good shot and sense of finishing with exceptional strength to shield the ball and hold off defenders. She is an Abby Wambach type of player and if she can develop into half the player that Abby is then she’ll be in good shape.”
A true playmaker, Irving, Texas’ Wilburn should help Arkansas’ offense this fall. Of her 31 points as a junior, 15 came off assists as she has totaled 31 helpers over the course of three-plus seasons for MacArthur High School. She has played with the North Texas ODP state team for five years and was the MVP of her high school team as a junior. Not just an athlete, Wilburn is also slated to graduate among the top 10 in her high school class and is a member of the National Honor Society.
“Abbey comes from the same club team as Lindsay, which is one of the top clubs in Texas,” Henderson said. “She has good speed and is a crafty, intelligent player. She is a true utility player and can be effective at central midfield, outside midfield or forward for us. She will be an important player because of her versatility. She’ll make us a better team at many places and it will be fun to see where she plays for us. She has strong leadership abilities and has been the captain of her club team for two years.”
The Lady Razorback soccer team has already begun spring training and will play in five games over the course of the semester before their 2005 class arrives on campus in the fall. For more information about Lady Razorback soccer or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.