Orange County high school athletes look to college futures on fall signing day
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).
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.”
Lots celebrations around Southern California on early signing day for high school seniors
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 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.”
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.
“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:
CORONA DEL MAR
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
PACIFICA CHRISITIAN ORANGE COUNTY
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
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