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Breaking down Arizona soccer’s 2021 recruiting class

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona soccer is adding another large crop of newcomers this fall—nine freshmen and a junior college transfer—but unlike previous years they might not need them to contribute right away.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Wildcats will be returning at least three of their four seniors, possibly their entire starting lineup and every key reserve from a team that went 9-5-1. Their roster could be bigger than ever, which means playing time could be sparser than ever.

“There’s no major holes to fill and so it’s them understanding that they’re going to have to have the right expectations and to be ready to compete,” head coach Tony Amato said. “Now, they’ll play if they are, but there’s less opportunity this year than in other years.”

That doesn’t mean the 2021 class isn’t talented. It’s not ranked in TopDrawerSoccer’s Top 25, but most of Arizona’s classes haven’t been. That hasn’t prevented them from becoming one of the top programs in the West.

“I don’t know how it stacks up in that sense, but we think this group has a lot of potential,” Amato said. “We really liked our class this year, the ‘20 class, and we feel like with the ‘20 and the ‘21 class, in terms of competitiveness, athleticism, and ability to play in the Pac-12, both of those classes set us up for a good future.”

The 2021 class is also unique in that it features three Southern players. More specifically, Georgia and Mississippi. That’s not a region Arizona has extracted much talent from in the Amato era. Normally, they recruit the West. Especially Southern California.

“With two new (assistant) coaches, they know some people and wanted to branch out a little bit and I was on board with that,” Amato said. “There’s direct flights from Atlanta to Tucson. ... It’s interesting because both scenarios are difficult in the sense that everyone, like every team in the Pac, recruits Southern California. So it’s hard to get [those recruits] as well. Whereas when we’re recruiting in Atlanta, there are some kids who just liked the idea of doing something different.”

All but three of Arizona’s incoming freshmen committed before COVID-19, meaning they partook in a conventional recruiting process. They and the returning players will report for summer workouts in early July.

In the meantime, let’s get to know the newbies.

Cariel Ellis

  • Hometown: Madison, Mississippi
  • Club team: Brandon FC/Holmes Community College
  • Position: Forward
  • Amato’s analysis: “She’s a JuCo transfer. She’s a powerful forward who we would expect to, once she gets her feet under her, be someone who is a dynamic attacker for us and helps us produce goalscoring chances. She will probably be someone who can chip in with some goals in her first few years. ... She’s pretty powerful, man. She’s strong. She can run by you. She can play with her back to the goal. And when she gets chances, she can finish. ... You’ll see her run and be like, ‘she’s like as powerful as Jill (Aguilera).’ Adjusting from JuCo may take a little time, but we would expect that once she gets comfortable, she can help our attack.”
  • Anything else to know? Ellis became Holmes CC’s first-ever NJCAA All-American in 2019 after finishing third in the nation in goals (48) and points (111). She was originally a Mississippi State commit. “Cariel has done a fantastic job leaving her mark on the history of our program,” head coach Matt Convertino once said. “She has tremendous natural athletic attributes but that is just part of the reason she was successful this season. She also has an outstanding work ethic to develop her athletic and technical abilities as well as a great competitive spirit which drives her to be a better player on a daily basis. She is very deserving of an All-American selection.”

Olivia Briede

  • Hometown: Alpharetta, Georgia
  • Club team: United Futbol Academy
  • Position: Forward
  • Amato’s analysis: “Her sister is Belle Briede who plays at Stanford. She came to our Stanford game this year and her sister starts and plays center midfield for Stanford. Olivia is a versatile player. She can play as a forward, she can play in midfield, she could even play in the back. She’s someone who’s athletic and versatile. I think those are the two best things I would say about her, and we’ll figure out exactly where she’s gonna play for us. But she likes to run, she’s fit, works hard, versatile. Those kinds of players usually work out for us.”
  • Anything else to know? Briede scored six goals in 16 U.S. Development Academy games in 2019-20. Her oldest sister Belle is a senior at Stanford and has won two national championships with the Cardinal while earning a pair of All-Pac-12 Third Team honors. There’s also Chloe Briede, a sophomore goalkeeper at Indiana. If Belle returns to Stanford for another season, Arizona will have three players with sisters on Pac-12 rivals. Iliana Hocking (Penelope, USC) and Jenna Studer (Sydney, Oregon State) are the other two.

Emma Kate Uithoven

  • Hometown: Meridian, Mississippi
  • Club team: Alabama FC
  • Position: Defender
  • Amato’s analysis: “Emma Kate tore her ACL, so she’s trying to get back in time for the season, but she may have to redshirt if she’s not all the way back. But she’s someone who is an athletic defender. And before the injury, we expected her to compete for time as an outside back because she is really athletic, has good speed, is tough. But with the injury, it’ll be cutting it close to being ready for August. We think she’ll be ready, but she also doesn’t know exactly what this looks like.”
  • Anything else to know? Emma Kate was the Lamar School’s 2020 Homecoming Queen and said she chose Arizona, in part, because it felt like the South: “I’m really excited,” Uithoven told the Meridian Star. “I really wanted to play in the Pac-12, and I feel really blessed to get an offer from them. I thought the campus was really cool, and it felt like the South in a way with the way they had it set up. Everyone was really nice there, and I love the coaches. They’re very supportive.”

Marley Chappel

  • Hometown: Vail, Colorado
  • Club team: Colorado Rush DA and FC Stars ECNL
  • Position: Midfield/Forward
  • Amato’s analysis: “Marley will be a midfielder for us and she’s pretty versatile. She could play center mid or wide mid. She has a lot of tools. She can dribble, she can pass, knows the game really well. Her dad was a longtime college coach, so she grew up under a soccer coach and obviously she knows the game well. She’s someone who grew up in Vail, Colorado but went off to boarding school and played in Massachusetts, so she’s coming from a good club, a good high school, already lived away from home. She should come in and contribute to our midfield.”
  • Anything else to know? Chappel said on the And That’s The Game podcast that playing in the super-competitive Pac-12 was a big reason she chose Arizona. She was born in Santa Barbara and was shocked by Massachusetts winters. You can watch her extended highlight reel here.

Jackie Stanco

  • Hometown: Folsom, California
  • Club team: San Juan Soccer
  • Position: Forward
  • Amato’s analysis: “She is a grinding forward who runs things down, can play with her back to goal, can score goals. ... She is similar to (former Arizona forward) Ali Doller. Competitive, tough, chases things down, battles, makes it hard on defenders. If you’re someone who is playing against her as a defender, you’re not in for an easy day.”
  • Anything else to know? Stanco had 22 goals and five assists in 28 games as a junior at St. Francis High School in Sacramento. When asked why she chose Arizona, she said: “Originally I had been talking to Cal. But Arizona started calling me and I went on a visit. I fell in love with the campus. It is bigger and the campus was so much more green and not just a concrete campus. The coaching staff made all the difference, were really welcoming and they wanted me. I wanted to be where I am wanted. They had a pretty good season this season.”

Jolie Maycumber

  • Hometown: Portland, Oregon
  • Club team: GPS Oregon and Oregon United FC
  • Position: Defender
  • Amato’s analysis: “She’s really versatile. One of the things is that she’s left footed. So she can serve a ball with her left, she can dribble, she’s got good size, she’ll head, she’ll defend well. She could play left back, center back. She can also play as an attacking player like left midfield, so she will probably get first looked at as a back for us as a defender.”
  • Anything else to know? Maycumber has been playing soccer since she was 4 and also played basketball and softball in high school. She was a named a first-team all-returner in her division. Her team led its division in scoring.

Maddy Koleno

  • Hometown: Portland, Oregon
  • Club team: Oregon United FC
  • Position: Midfield
  • Amato’s analysis: “Koleno is center midfielder, so she is athletic, tough, covers a lot of ground and is someone who can play both sides of the ball in midfield. So it’s not like, ‘Oh, she’s a dynamic attacker’ and it’s not like, ‘oh, she’ll just be in there to win balls defensively.’ She’s capable of being what we would call a box-to-box midfielder from 18 to 18. We expect her to contribute to playing in center midfield.”
  • Anything else to know? In 2017, Koleno scored a goal in Jesuit High School’s 4-0 state championship win over Sunset High School. It came against current Oregon State goalkeeper Bridgette Skiba. Koleno and Maycumber are both from Portland and played for Oregon United FC.

Desiree Foster

  • Hometown: San Diego, California
  • Club team: Albion SC
  • Position: Forward
  • Amato’s analysis: “Desiree is a fast, dynamic attacker. She is someone who will contribute to our attack, be dynamic. She’s athletic and fast, man. She’s someone who will want to get the ball to to help create goals.”
  • Anything else to know? Per MaxPreps, Foster once scored nine goals in 15 games as a freshman at University City High School. She also runs track, just like several other UA players.

Gianna Christiansen

  • Hometown: Rancho Santa Margarita, California
  • Club team: SoCal Blues
  • Position: Midfield
  • Amato’s analysis: “G is a midfielder who has good speed, but is really good with the ball and sees things from an attacking standpoint that not everyone always sees. From playing a key pass or the right ball or playing out of pressure.”
  • Anything else to know? According to MaxPreps, Christensen had 10 goals and nine assists in 14 games as a junior at Santa Margarita High School. SoCal Blues is the same club that produced current Wildcats like Jada Talley, Sabrina Enciso, Mariah Dunn, Megan Chelf and Iliana Hocking.

Grace Klosinski

  • Hometown: Mission Viejo, California
  • Club team: LAFC Slammers
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Amato’s analysis: “Grace plays in goal for one of the best club teams in the country. She’ll be competing for a national championship this year. She’s super competitive and someone who is so competitive in goal that she wants to do everything to make sure the ball doesn’t go over the line. She’s good with her feet, athletic, really good shot stopper. We feel really good about our goalkeeper position with Hope (Hisey), her and Alani Mexia.”
  • Anything else to know? Last March, Klosinski and Christensen were named to the Trinity League All-First Team. They both attend Santa Margarita High School.