Seven Sign with Soccer

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon women's soccer coach Tara Erickson looked north to her hometown of Puyallup, Wash., and south to one of California's most dominant club teams to sign the Ducks' seven-member 2007 recruiting class.

Among the class, announced by Erickson Thursday, were three top-200 national players according to Soccer Buzz, two from Erickson's former club team the FC Royals and three from California juggernaut West Coast FC.

"This is a class with both soccer skill and soccer smarts," said Erickson. "They are all impressive individually as athletes, but they are also very intelligent in their understanding of the tactical aspects of the game."

Soccer Buzz tapped Kirstie Kuhns, a midfielder from Pleasanton, Calif., as one of the top 75 players in the nation. She was a 2005 U-16 National Team pool player and led Foothill High School to the North Coast Section championship game three straight years, winning the title in 2004. She spent time in the state and regional Olympic Development Programs (ODP) prior to getting the nod for the national pool and plays for the Pleasanton Rage soccer club.

"She's probably the best athlete overall and we'll use her at attacking midfield," Erickson said of Kuhns. "She has a little bit of an edge to her game, which in a way reminds me of when I was a player."

Jill Jensen and Bree Rowe both played for the same club as Erickson did, the FC Royals. The two led the Royals to five state club championships.

Jensen, from Puyallup, was a top-100 recruit by Soccer Buzz and was a two-time all-state player for Emerald Ridge High School. The forward scored 95 goals during her prep career. She was also an ODP Region 4 pool player and two-time MVP of the South Puget Sound League.

Rowe, a midfielder from Federal Way, Wash., led Federal Way High School to the 2004 SPSL championship. Like Jensen, Rowe also won two SPSL MVP honors and was an all-state first team selection as a senior.

"Jill really has the ability to score goals, but she can also set her teammates up because she sees the game so well," said Erickson. "Bree may be the most underrated of the class. She's smart and able to position herself to cut off passing angles and she's a very good defender."

Club team West Coast FC sent three players to Eugene -- Sara Plutko of Upland, Calif., and Jennifer Stoltenberg and Mercedes Walters, both from Mission Viejo, Calif. The trio led West Coast FC to a pair of state club championships. "The three from West Coast FC, they are all winners and I think they're hungry to stamp their own style on this team, especially after watching us sweep UCLA and USC last year," Erickson said. "I think that really got them excited to be joining our program."

Plutko was a Soccer Buzz top-200 player and a 2006 ODP national champion. Targeted to eventually play sweeper for the Ducks, Plutko led St. Lucy's Priory to the 2006 Sierra League Championships, was the league's defensive player of the year in 2005 and was league MVP in 2006.

Stoltenberg, a forward who can also play defense, was a member of the 2005 ODP national championship team and was a two-time league offensive MVP for El Toro-Lake Forest High School. Walters is an attacking midfielder who was a two-time all Pacific Coast League selection for Laguna Hills High School.

"Plutko is the perfect sweeper for our style," Erickson said. "She organizes her teammates so well that it makes her job look easy. She's also very dangerous on free kicks and that's an area we'll look for her to help us in immediately.

"Stoltenberg is a fireball of energy," Erickson said. "She loves to beat people and plays with a lot of heart. Walters is a silky smooth player who can really link everyone together up the center of the field. I expect her game to really grow when she gets used to this level of play."

The seventh member of the 2007 class is Marissa "Bo" Rael from Alta Loma, Calif. The defender was an all-CIF first team performer for Los Osos High School, where her team won back-to-back Baseline League championships.

"Bo is a defender who is great in the air," said Erickson. "She's a determined, hard-nosed player."

The seven signees will offset the loss of three seniors -- the program's all-time leading scorer Nicole Garbin, as well as midfielder Rachel Grushkin and goalkeeper Emily Marrer.

Two underclassmen have also decided not to return for 2007. Sophomore midfielder Taylor Callan said she will transfer in hopes of finding more playing time. The Portland, Ore., native appeared in three games for the Ducks in 2006. Redshirt freshman midfielder Kara Beasley, a walk-on from Portland who did not play in 2006, has decided to retire from the team, but will remain enrolled at the University of Oregon.

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