Orange County high school athletes look to college futures on fall signing day

Marina  soccer teammates Kaitlyn Paculba, left, and McKenna Pua committed to Oregon and Washington State, respectively.
Marina High School senior soccer teammates Kaitlyn Paculba, left, and McKenna Pua committed to Oregon and Washington State, respectively.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

High school athletes around the country looked to the future as fall signing day arrived on Wednesday.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered many things, including the way that signing day was celebrated. Some schools opted to postpone in-person signing day ceremonies in the hopes that conditions might improve and there would be less restrictions later in the school year.

Marina girls’ soccer player McKenna Pua, a Daily Pilot Dream Team selection at center back, said that she signed in front of family and friends at home to join the Washington State program.

Kaitlyn Paculba and Pua are teammates on the Vikings, and they were teammates when they won a national championship in the Elite Clubs National League at the age of 15 while playing for a Slammers team coached by Walter Camargo. They will now be rivals in the Pac-12, as Paculba signed with Oregon.

“I’m super excited for her,” Pua said. “I thought it was cool that we’ve been on the same team and we go to high school together. Sharing those memories, I don’t think is the same as anyone else I’ve had the honor to be a teammate with.”

Marina also had three softball players sign or commit in Briana Gonzalez (Eastern Illinois), Taylor Lane (St. Mary’s) and Emily Farlin (Akron).

Corona del Mar High's Grace Myers, left, Kaitlyn Greenwald, center, and Katherine Snyder celebrate their commitments.
Corona del Mar High water polo players Grace Myers, left, Kaitlyn Greenwald, center, and Katherine Snyder celebrate their commitments on signing day in Newport Beach on Wednesday.
(Courtesy of Erin Greenwald)

Locally, student-athletes signed or committed to a college before anyone had the chance to compete on the field of play during their senior year. Fall sports did not start on time, but Corona del Mar outside hitter Molly Joyce, the reigning Dream Team Girls’ Volleyball Player of the Year, is looking forward to broadening her horizons in joining Boston College’s program.

“I was looking at … schools in the area, just in the Northeast,” Joyce said. “I also really, really liked the coaches when I went, and my older cousin goes there, so I just felt like it would be a familiar place when I did go there.”

Sea Kings third baseman Blake Butcher, who said he had started for CdM since his freshman year, was ecstatic to sign with San Diego State for baseball.

“I would say it’s a 10 out of 10,” Butcher said of his excitement to make it official. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while. For it to finally come true, come to life, it’s a surreal feeling.”

The Sea Kings also have three girls’ water polo players set to play in college in Kaitlyn Greenwald (Harvard), Grace Myers (UCLA) and Katherine Snyder (Hawai’i).

Mater Dei High seniors, from left, Skye Selinsky, Morgan McConnell, Natalie Marshall, AJ Valle, Drew Porter and Kailia Utley.
From left, Mater Dei High seniors Skye Selinsky, Morgan McConnell, Natalie Marshall, AJ Valle, Drew Porter and Kailia Utley smile for photos after signing their letters of intent on signing day in Santa Ana on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mater Dei High was a rare school that held a signing day ceremony Wednesday, though that too was affected by COVID-19. The Monarchs had three different ceremonies in the gymnasium throughout the morning, divided by sport, to promote social distancing.

Corona del Mar resident Skye Selinsky and Huntington Beach resident AJ Valle were two members of the Monarchs baseball program to sign, and each is headed to Columbia University. Drew Porter, a Costa Mesa resident, is bound for Cal State Northridge.

Selinsky, an outfielder, and Valle, a right-handed pitcher and third baseman, were each pumped to be headed to the Ivy League school. They earned it, as Mater Dei baseball coach Richard Mercado said during his comments honoring them that each had a 4.4 cumulative grade-point average.

Valle said it was an “academic and athletic grind” to get in.

“We’ve had to push each other a lot the last couple of years, to make sure we were on top of our stuff getting there,” Valle said. “It’s going to be nice to not know nobody across the country.”

Senior Kailia Utley, right, smiles for pictures with coach Kelly Dullard, center, and fellow senior swimmer Lizzie Mackowiak.
Senior Kailia Utley, right, of Huntington Beach, smiles for pictures with coach Kelly Dullard, center, and fellow senior swimmer Lizzie Mackowiak, left, during signing day at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana on Wednesday. Utley is headed to Vanderbilt University.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Mater Dei senior swimmer Kailia Utley, a Huntington Beach resident, signed with Vanderbilt University. As a sophomore, Utley finished ninth in the 100-yard butterfly and 10th in the 200-yard individual medley at the 2019 CIF Southern Section Division 1 championships.

Though last spring’s CIF meet was canceled due to the pandemic, Utley hopes to return as a senior. She said she liked the athletics, academics and community service prospects that Vanderbilt offered, plus there was a more personal reason for her decision.

“I’m a really big fan of country music, and it’s in Nashville,” she said. “That’s kind of fun.”

Mater Dei senior boys’ volleyball player Josh Rosenblum is headed to Long Beach State. Rosenblum, a 6-foot-6 setter and Newport Coast resident, said it was older sister Ally who provided motivation to get to this moment.

Ally Rosenblum, a big part of the Monarchs’ girls’ basketball team before graduating in 2016, recently graduated after four years in the UCLA women’s basketball program.

Senior Natalie Marshall, of Huntington Beach, smiles for a picture with softball coach Sean Brashear during Signing Day.
Senior Natalie Marshall of Huntington Beach smiles with softball coach Sean Brashear during signing day at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana on Wednesday. Marshall is headed to the University of Kansas to play softball.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“It’s something I wanted to do my whole life,” Josh Rosenblum said. “My sister is a big-time Division 1 athlete, and those are big footsteps I always wanted to fill. I wasn’t positive I was going to achieve it because of COVID, but it’s such a big deal for me.”

Edison had four girls’ soccer players sign or commit in Sophia Drake (St. Mary’s), Lucy Granger (UC San Diego), Riley O’Brien (Montana) and Jaqueline Peterson (Embry-Riddle).

The Chargers also have Evan Knipe headed to the Long Beach State baseball program.

Arizona State-bound Max Wilner, a three-time CIF Southern Section champion and two-time state medalist in wrestling, headlined Fountain Valley’s signees.

Huntington Beach baseball continues to produce next-level talent, as three more Oilers made their plans to continue their playing careers — Caden Aoki (Notre Dame), Blake Penso (UC Irvine) and Shane Stafford (San Diego State).

Laguna Beach had 11 girls’ water polo players alone sign or commit with college programs. The most recent to commit was Rachel Carver, who is headed to Princeton.

Below is a list of local athletes who have signed or committed through Wednesday:


Blake Butcher, San Diego State baseball

Kaitlyn Greenwald, Harvard College women’s water polo

Molly Joyce, Boston College women’s volleyball

Grace Myers, UCLA women’s water polo

Katherine Snyder, University of Hawai’i women’s water polo

Isabella Vigeland, Northern Michigan University women’s soccer


Sophia Drake, St. Mary’s women’s soccer

Savannah Frahm, University of Jamestown women’s swimming

Jenna Gorden, Oregon Tech softball

Lucy Granger, UC San Diego women’s soccer

Erin Johnson, University of North Dakota women’s golf

Evan Knipe, Long Beach State baseball

Blakely Malpass, Davenport University women’s lacrosse

Izabella Martinez, University of Hawai’i, Manoa softball

Emma Mendoza, Cal State Monterey Bay softball

Riley O’Brien, University of Montana women’s soccer

Jaqueline Peterson, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) women’s soccer

Melanie Wieland, Georgetown College women’s lacrosse


Juliette Bokor, UC San Diego women’s volleyball

Lauren Mena, Dixie State University women’s volleyball

Samara Ortega, Hampton University softball

Max Wilner, Arizona State wrestling


Caden Aoki, Notre Dame baseball

Ethan Crooks, UCLA men’s water polo

Devyn Greer, University of Iowa softball

Cassidee Kinslow-Johnson, University of Texas, Arlington women’s basketball

Tyler Padua, UC Irvine men’s water polo

Blake Penso, UC Irvine baseball

Shane Stafford, San Diego State baseball

Kaytlin Taylor, Cal State Fullerton women’s tennis

Summer West, University of Minnesota women’s swimming


Eric Silva, UCLA baseball


Ella Baumgarten, Marist College women’s water polo

Mateo Bianchi, UCLA men’s cross-country and track and field

Rachel Carver, Princeton University women’s water polo

Imani Clemons, UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo

Kenedy Corlett, UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo

Skylar Kidd, Indiana University women’s water polo

Emma Lineback, UCLA women’s water polo

Mikayla Lopez, Loyola Marymount University women’s water polo

Isabela Mullin, Pepperdine University beach volleyball

Nolan Naess, Army West Point men’s basketball

Molly Renner, UCLA women’s water polo

Jessie Rose, Cal women’s water polo

Emma Singer, Cal women’s water polo

Mikayla Smith, Franklin and Marshall College women’s volleyball

Jacquelyn Strawn, Pepperdine University beach volleyball

Nicole Struss, UCLA women’s water polo


Emily Farlin, University of Akron softball

Briana Gonzalez, Eastern Illinois University softball

Taylor Lane, St. Mary’s College softball

David Mashburn, Cal State Northridge baseball

Kaitlyn Paculba, University of Oregon women’s soccer

McKenna Pua, Washington State women’s soccer


Rachel Blair, Concordia University beach volleyball

Alyssa Durazo-Frescas, UNLV women’s basketball

Cadence Gronski, Santa Clara University women’s volleyball

Clay Kaneko, Pepperdine University men’s water polo

Grant Loth, UCLA men’s water polo

Natalie Marshall, Kansas softball

Morgan McConnell, University of North Dakota softball

Faith Nguyen, UCLA women’s soccer

Drew Porter, Cal State Northridge baseball

Josh Rosenblum, Long Beach State men’s volleyball

Skye Selinsky, Columbia University baseball

Janna Tauscher, Cal women’s water polo

Kailia Utley, Vanderbilt women’s swimming and diving

AJ Valle, Columbia University baseball


Gabrielle Babin, Clemson University women’s rowing

Reese Bodas, Boise State women’s soccer

Olivia Giolas, USC women’s water polo

Eliana Gottlieb, Oregon State softball

Eli Liechty, UCLA men’s water polo

Miya Meskis, Cal women’s rowing

Will O’Neill, USC baseball

Brendan Read, Pepperdine University men’s volleyball

Joelle Rothbard, San Diego State women’s lacrosse

Bella Tobin, Southern Methodist University women’s rowing

Cathy Tong, Cal State Monterey Bay women’s golf


Houston Mallette, Pepperdine University men’s basketball


Alex Ispas, Northwestern University men’s swimming

Cole McKechnie, Navy men’s water polo

Camille Mras, UC Santa Barbara women’s water polo

Matty Walsh, Pepperdine University men’s water polo


Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.

For more sports stories, visit or follow us on Twitter @DailyPilotSport.