By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The USF women's soccer team recently signed a star-studded class of 11 that brings a ton of top-tier experience and talent to a Bulls program that was looking to reload.
Six of the signees made ESPN Rise's Florida Class of 2012 Prospects while other new Bulls have represented their countries on national teams.
"As a staff, we're excited about the class," assistant coach Chris Brown said. "The most important thing is that they all come from high-level club teams in the state of Florida or national teams. We're excited about how that is going to translate to our team. The learning curve in terms of stepping into this level will not be as large."
Here is a look at the Bulls' new recruits that will look to help the Bulls get back to the top of the Big East in 2012:
Erica Burt, a center-back, comes to USF from Ponte Vedra High School (Ponte Vedra, Fla.), where she was a team captain in her final two seasons and led her team to the Class 3A championships her senior year. Burt made the Times Union all-coast and all-county teams as a junior and senior. Burt played for the Creeks Clash Soccer Club and was coached by Mike Pickett.
"She's 6 feet tall, so from a size perspective we think she's got a big upside," Brown said. "We're excited about the physical and technical tools that she brings. We think she's going to be an effective defender in the Big East."
Olivia Chance, a left-winger, brings more national team experience after playing for numerous New Zealand junior teams (U-17 World Cup and currently on U-20 squad). She was a finalist for the senior national team that recently played in the World Cup in Germany.
"We're excited about her. She brings a creative flare and she has a bit of an edge to her," Brown said. "I think she has a really good combination of a skill set that's going to be effective right away in the Big East."
Jessica Clark, a defensive center-mid, scored 43 goals in her senior year at Felix Varela Senior High in Miami and earned All-Dade honors twice. Her sister, Alexia, is currently playing for St. Thomas University. Clark played for Coral Springs United FC and has been coached by Rohan Shakers.
"Jessica is a tremendous athlete who can contribute on the defensive and attacking side of the ball, and her ability to play in several positions will add a lot of depth for us," Brown said.
Sydney Drinkwater, a keeper, gained a wealth of postseason experience at Merritt Island (Fla.) High School, winning a state title in 2010 reaching the finals in 2011. She made the Florida Dairy Farmers' All-State team was named the Merritt Island's most valuable player in 2010. Drinkwater also earned two varsity letters in track and field. Drinkwater played for the Space Coast United Soccer club under the guidance of coach Allie Goff.
"We think that she is the best goalkeeper in the state of Florida for her age group. She's got really good size and very good hands," Brown said. "We're excited for keeper coach Juan Pablo de Brigard to get a hold of her and work with her. Athletically she possesses all the qualities that could make her a successful goalkeeper in the Big East."
Christiane Endler, a keeper, played with the full national team in Chile last year and also played for her country in the Pan-Am Games in 2011. She also took part in the U-20 World Cup as well as U-20 Sub-American competition.
"Christiane's size and technical ability are second to none and we expect her to be able to make and immediate impact for the program," Brown said.
Paola Lopez, right-winger, is from Puebla, Mexico and has national team experience. She played in the U-17 World Cup in Trinidad in 2010 and is currently on the U-20 roster. Lopez played against USF with the U-17 team in an exhibition in 2010 and scored Mexico's goal in a 3-1 loss.
"She a very creative, crafty, player on the ball and has a high soccer IQ from the environment she's grown up in," Brown said. "Once she gets adjusted to the physicality of the game in the Big East she's going to be quite effective for us."
Soraya "YaYa" Martinez, a midfielder, has been one of the top 18 players on the United States' Region 3 team for multiple years and has been to national camp for her age group. TopDrawerSoccer.com rated her No. 88 in its top recruits for the 2012 class. She comes to USF from Freedom High School in Orlando, where she holds the school record for most goals and assists. She was named All-Metro freshman of the year, first-team all-state and ESPN Rise selected her as a Fab 50 player. Martinez has played for the Florida Soccer Alliance for coaches Bobby Hurring and Henry Martinez.
"In terms of accolades, she's got a ton," Brown said. "She's another player with good ball skills, the ability to break players down. In those positions we want players that are creative and crafty, and she definitely fits the bill for those."
Bianca Norman, a left-winger/left-back, currently played for Tyler Junior College in Texas, the same school former USF men's star Dom Dwyer went to before his junior year. Norman was named a first-team All-American as a freshman and was the national tournament's MVP as a sophomore while her team won the national championship.
"She's a tremendous athlete in terms of speed. She'll be as quick as anyone on our team, she's that fast. She ran the 100 meters in high school and her speed on the field is fun to watch," Brown said.
Monica Resto, a central midfielder, played with future USF teammate Erica Burt for the Creeks Clash, a highly competitive club team in Jacksonville for coach Mike Pickett. She also played for Creekside High School in St. John's, Fla., where she earned the Golden Boot Award for the most goals in one season in 2009. Resto also is strong in academics and finished sixth out of 398 students in her graduating class.
"She was well coached at the club level and a really smart student of the game," Brown said.
Jackie Simpson, a defensive central-mid, played for the Brandon FC, arguably the best club team in Florida at the U-17 level, under the guidance of coach Randy Belli. She earned varsity letter in all four years at Newsome High School in Lithia.
She's a strong, athletic kid that we feel is going to be able to step right in from that standpoint and compete right away in the Big East. We're excited for her to get here and give us more bite in the central midfield.
Taylor Tippett, a defensive center-mid, was Carrollwood Day School's athlete of the year in 2011 and a three-year captain on the soccer team. She holds school records for goals in a season (18) and goals in a game (7). Tippett also has four varsity letters in cross country and one in track and field. She played club soccer for Tampa Bay United and has been coached by Adrian Bush.
"She's well versed in the college game and what it takes to be successful here," Brown said. "She's technically sound and has a real competitive spirit on the field. She's a good fit to help give us depth at that position."
Countless days and hours have gone into recruiting and Brown said he's excited about the future of USF women's soccer.
"I think it's a well-rounded class," he said. "From the number of kids we lost this year, we were looking at all positions across the field. I feel like we've done that with this group in adding depth and plugging some gaps."