By Kyle Cape-Lindelin, Staff Writer -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Portland women's soccer program welcomes a fresh batch of talented recruits for the upcoming 2012 season, hoping to build on their second round NCAA Tournament exit last year.
The signatures of newly signed recruits include defenders Shelby Vaver, Haylee DeGrood, Sara Bindl and forwards Noelle LaPrevotte and Devlyn Jeter give Head Coach Garrett Smith the excitement and reward that sometimes takes years of recruiting to accomplish.
"The recruitment process is an all-day, everyday process," Smith said. "I'm always very excited to share UP's culture with a new recruit and watch them see that they're a part of our program. We get the fortune to be picky with who we choose to recruit, so they know if they choose us they are special players."
With only two recruiters allowed by the NCAA per university, Smith and Assistant Coach Lisa Chambers have their hands full with recruiting trips, scouting and identifying those select players who fit their program. "We try to identify each recruit one at a time because they are all so different," Chambers said. "We always try to find the best player on the field, but it's important to us that they fit our culture as well."
Skill, talent and mindset are all important to Smith and Chambers during the recruiting process, but establishing relationships with current players is vital to making the process comfortable to the recruits. Recruits on official visits are normally housed with a current player to not only show them around the University and its facilities, but also to allow the current players to get to know their potential teammates.
"Recruits already know the big things about our University such as its strong academics, facilities, fans, school size, the constant rain," Smith said. "But it's the culture of our school and program that separates us from other schools. It's the work ethic and commitment from our players that makes us great and it's our current players' job to express that to recruits."
Current players enjoy meeting their new teammates and establishing relationships with them, sometimes starting back as far as recruits' sophomore years in high school. Sophomore Sarah Bridges got the chance to host DeGrood on her recruiting visit.
"We've all established relationships with the new recruits already and I'm very excited to have them join our team in the fall," Bridges said. "They all are very talented and hard-working. They each have skills that can impact our team and help us succeed."
The five recruits join only two seniors, Taylor Brooke and Kendall Johnson, leading the team in the fall, as well as seven juniors.
"Even though we don't have the 'senior leadership' per se, I'm not worried at all because this team is full of leaders," Smith said. "The foundation, culture, work ethic is all there, so now it's just about the new recruits fitting in."
Defenders Vaver, DeGrood and Bindl will look to replace the defensive prowess left by graduated seniors Kassi McCluskie, Michelle Olivier and Emma Nelson. The new defensive recruits are well known for their quickness, effort and tenacity on the defensive end of the field. Bindl's club coach was former UP star Michelle French.
"Michelle definitely handed Sara (Bindl) in our laps," Smith said. "Sara already knew she wanted to come to UP just because of that connection. It's a lot like sales, the more people you know, the more who know you, the better and more results you'll get."
Forward recruits include the athletic six-foot-tall Jeter, who was a five-year captain of the Elk Grove Club team in Sacramento, Calif., the same club team former UP and current Team USA stars Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox played for.
"Devlyn (Jeter) immediately catches your eye with her pressure on the field," Smith said. "She definitely passes the eye test with her ability to cover almost every position. I'm excited to see where she fits on Merlo Field."
LaPrevotte is yet another highly touted recruit, capable of playing as both a forward and a midfielder. Standing five-foot-five from Petaluma, Calif., LaPrevotte has the ability take over a game offensively from her experience playing with the best clubs teams in California as well as playing on the national squad.
"Noelle (LaPrevotte) is an all-out ballplayer," Smith said. "When you're on the attack, you want her involved because she just makes thing happen."
With another talented class joining an experienced team, Pilot fans have a reason to be as excited as Smith and Chambers are, even through the spring showers.