May 11, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Head coach Rudy Meredith will welcome seven freshmen to New Haven this fall. The group includes two sets of club soccer teammates. Jacqueline Gantes and Eliza Walper both played for the Southern California Blues, while Ali Giusto and Leslie Perez were members of the Renegades in Florida. Giusto and Perez are the first players from Florida to attend Yale since 1998.
Yale is coming off the most successful season in school history. The Bulldogs were ranked 13th in the final NSCAA/adidas national poll after winning a school-record 15 games and reaching the third round of the NCAA College Cup for the first time. Yale captured its first Ivy League title since 1992 with a 5-1-1 league mark and finished 15-4-1 overall. In addition, the Bulldogs hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA College Cup.
Here is a closer look at the Class of 2010.
Caitlin Collins, F, 5-10, Raytown, MO/Pembroke Hill HS/KC Metro Dynamos
Collins is a three-time all-state selection at Pembroke Hill High School, which has won three district titles during her career. She has twice been named Pembroke Hill's Offensive Most Valuable Player and entered her senior season this spring with 78 career goals. In addition, she played for the Missouri ODP team in 2004 and was invited to the Region II ODP camp in 2004. Collins also has played for the KC Metro Dynamos Club team.
"Yale offers everything I want in a college--challenging academic opportunities, a competitive women's soccer program, an enthusiastic student body, and numerous opportunities for community service," Collins said. "On my visits to the campus, the students, coaches and faculty were friendly, helpful and great fun. I am thrilled to be a part of the Yale community and am looking forward to this fall."
Jacqueline Gantes, F, 5-7, Laguna Niguel, CA/Dana Hills/Southern California Blues
Gantes was a two-time all-league selection at Dana Hills High School. She led the team in assists as both a junior and senior and was named the team most valuable player in both those years. As a senior, she was named a Division I County All-Star and following her junior year was selected as Dana Hills' Athlete of the Year. Gantes also played for the Southern California Blues Club team and was in the Region IV Olympic Development Program.
"I am thrilled to be joining the incredible Yale family," Gantes said. "Yale offers me a dream come true with its unique combination of excellence both in the classroom and on the field. I am anxious to be a contributing member of this amazing group of people."
Ali Giusto, D, 5-4, Davie, FL/American Heritage Plantation/Renegades
Giusto comes to Yale from American Heritage Plantation High School, which was ranked first in the nation by the NSCAA following the 2005 season. She was named the Broward Player of the Year in 2004, was a three-time all-state and four-time all-county selection. In addition, Giusto played club soccer for the Coral Spring Renegades, who won the Florida state championship in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
"The balance, quality and attitude towards education and athletics found at Yale seemed to fit exactly what I was looking for in a college," Giusto said. "What surprised me most were the people and friendly atmosphere I met when I visited the campus. It made my decision very easy."
Sophia Merrifield, D, 5-9, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School/Hawaii Bulls
Merrifield was a first team all-state selection in 2005 at the Punahou School. She also earned first team all-league recognition as a senior and helped lead Punahou to three state championships. In addition, she was the recipient of the 2005 McEldowney-Matthias Memorial Award for contribution in citizenship, scholarship and athletics in the junior class. Merrifield also played for the Hawaii Soccer Club Bulls, the 2005 under-17 U.S. Club Soccer National Cup champions.
"In addition to excellent academics, Yale has a strong soccer team with a wonderful staff and atmosphere," Merrifield said. "It is a privilege to have the opportunity to contribute to the program."
Leslie Perez F/D, 5-7, Weston, FL/St. Thomas Aquinas/Renegades
Perez led St. Thomas Aquinas High School in scoring in both her junior and senior year and was a two-time all-county and all-state selection. As a senior she scored 35 goals and added 27 assists. The team was ranked first in the nation in 2004. Perez also played for the Florida Renegades Club team, which won six State Cup titles and advanced to the national semifinals in 2004. In addition, she played for the Florida ODP team for two years.
"Yale is an amazing university," Perez said. "It has everything I was looking for - outstanding academics, a gorgeous campus and a fun and active student lifestyle. Having a soccer team that's ranked in the top 20 nationally didn't hurt either. I'm very excited to be a Bulldog."
Hannah Smith, D, 5-8, Bay Village, Ohio/Magnificat HS/Ohio Premier North
Smith was a three-time Cleveland Plain Dealer honorable mention selection at Magnificat High School. She was the captain of the 2005 team, which won the district championship, and also earned Academic All-Ohio honors. In addition, Smith played for Ohio Premier North, which was 2005 state finalist and the 2004 state champion and regional semifinalist. She also played for the Ohio North Olympic Development Program for five years. In 2003, she helped the team to a third-place finish at the national championship. Her older brother Jim Smith '98 played football at Yale and was an academic All-Ivy selection.
"When I met the team on my official visit, I knew Yale was where I wanted to play soccer," Smith said. "The team and coaches made me feel extremely welcome. I hope to contribute to the winning tradition at Yale."
Eliza Walper, M, 5-8, San Marino, CA/Pasadena Polytechnic/Southern California Blues
Walper was an all-state and all-conference selection at Pasadena Polytechnic School. She led the conference in both goals and assists in her freshman and sophomore years and finished her career with 85 goals and 40 assists. In addition, she served as team captain and was named team most valuable player as a junior and senior. Walper also played club soccer for the Southern California Blues, a two-time Coast Soccer League Cup champion.
"I was attracted to Yale because it delivered the best of both the academic and athletic worlds," Walper said. "The school's nurturing and diverse community as well as its school spirit were all aspects I found especially appealing."
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity