For Cal women’s soccer, opportunities for optimism amid a canceled in-person fall season have been few and far between. But over this past week, at least one silver lining has emerged: national signing day.
On Wednesday, Cal women’s soccer announced the addition of 14 new recruits to its team, projected by Top Drawer Soccer to be the No. 1 draft class in the nation in October. Hailing from as far as Potsdam, Germany, and as close to home as Martinez, California, the newest group of Golden Bears is promising.
The Bears’ recruiting class of 2021 is composed of five defenders, three midfielders and six forwards. Hope for improved defense comes in the form of Cailin Bloom, Courtney Boone, Maya Griffin, Aasha McLyn and Ayooluwapo Oke. Noelle Bond-Flasza, Kei Kitamura and Marleen Rohde will suit up as midfielders between the lines. And Cal’s forward squad will see Velize King, Karlie Lema, Arianna Manrique, Aaliyah Schinaman, Alexis Wright and Jordyn Young enter the fray.
While 10 of the aforementioned 14 call California home, the signees are spread out across both the state and the globe, with existing chemistry proving to be a recurring theme. Manrique, Oke and Wright are from Georgia, with the former two playing together as teammates in Tophat Soccer Club in Atlanta. In addition, Boone, Griffin and King were all in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Legends FC, while Lema and Schinaman shared time on the Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club.
According to Top Drawer Soccer, 11 of the 14 Cal recruits also rank within the top 200 players of their class nationwide, with four of them — Manrique, Oke, Boone and Lema — clinching spots within the top 50. Of those four, two are defenders and two are forwards — a balanced ratio representative of Cal’s scouting strategy to fill in open vacancies.
“Our 2021 class is one we are very excited about,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire in an email. “Our newest student athletes arrive with a great blend of high level soccer intelligence coupled with elite athleticism.”
But perhaps the biggest name of the newest Cal recruits comes not from the United States but rather from over 5,600 miles away in Europe.
At just 18 years old, Rohde has recently played for one of the most highly acclaimed women’s football teams in Germany — 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam — as well as for the German youth national team. Rohde boasts more than 600 minutes of international playing time and was crowned a winner of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 2019 after Germany narrowly defeated the Netherlands during a nail-biting penalty shootout.
As such, Rohde leads the charge among her fellow bunch of Bears and may likely serve as the preeminent star of the team for the future.
But for right now, Cal womens’ soccer is focused on one goal and one goal only: seamlessly assimilating their incoming class with their preexisting roster. Stars, like Angelina Anderson, Emily Smith, Emma Westin and Luca Deza still – in many ways – run the show for the blue and gold. Thus, players like Rohde, Oke, and Boone will presumably play as crucial complements to their distinguished, All-Region honoree teammates.
“Adding this group to an already talented team gives us the type of squad that can challenge at the very top of collegiate soccer,” McGuire said. “We look forward to having them with us soon.”