Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 | 2 a.m.
National signing day often seems to be a football-only event, receiving massive media attention as college programs restock their rosters.
Soccer, lacrosse and track athletes are lost in football's shadow.
Wednesday, when athletes across the nation signed intent letters to declare their commitment to a university, more than high school football athletes signed on the dotted line.
That’s especially true with one Las Vegas-area soccer club.
Heat FC had 17 girls sign this week with a wide range of schools — from Oregon and Arizona of the Pac-12, to Northern Colorado University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Most received a full-scholarship or a significant part of their schooling paid for. That’s what officials with the Southern Nevada Youth Soccer Association are most excited about. Heat FC is the competitive arm of the association, which includes youth recreational and adult leagues.
“For a lot of them, if it wasn’t for soccer they wouldn't have the opportunity to attend college,” said Key Reid, the association’s president. “For some of them, they’ll be the first generation to attend college.”
They sent a similar number of players to college last year, including Palo Verde High product Lauren Kaskie to UCLA and Niki Romero to national power North Carolina. Kaskie scored the game-winning goal for UCLA in the national semifinals last season as a freshman, helping them win a national championship.
Kaskie was comfortable on the big stage thanks to her tenure with Heat FC. It has teams in every age group of the Elite Clubs National League, which is the top-tier girls soccer league nationally.
Most games they compete against teams with a handful of players in the junior national team pool.
“It’s definitely the most competitive league in the country. You can argue it’s the most competitive league in the world,” Reid said. “There is never a game we play that’s not meaningful in this league. That’s been a huge part of the development for these girls.”
It’s common to play in front of numerous college coaches and national team scouts, which explains the wide range of colleges the players have signed with.
This year’s Heat FC signing class is highlighted by Bishop Gorman’s Charlotte Brascia, who signed with Arizona. Brascia is ranked as the nation’s 48th best player by Top Drawer Soccer. Her sister, Meghan Brascia, is a former Heat player on scholarship at the University of Houston.
"This program has changed my level of play and has taught me a lot about the importance of character," Brascia said in a statement. "It has motivated me to be a team leader both on and off the field."
Others to sign this week include Jordan Fleming of Palo Verde (Oregon), Kassandra Cerda of Centennial (DePaul), and Kelsey Thein of Centennial and Georgi Dolence of Liberty (Houston).
Aliya Salas of Valley signed with UC San Bernardino, Sunshine Soriano of Liberty signed with Seattle University and Morgan Mavroudis of Coronado to the Air Force. Soriano recently spent a month playing for the under-19 Philippine national team
“At some of the big tournaments, there are 70 college coaches lined up watching the kids play. Most of the recruiting gets done there,” Reid said.
It’s common for girls soccer players to have more opportunities at the next level because of gender equity. Most schools have 14 scholarships for the women’s team, but less than 10 for men. Each year, the Las Vegas area has more than 20 girls advance to college soccer. A similar number goes for softball.
Some land at Division I programs that compete in major conferences. Others play at Division II, Division III or NAIA schools. Most are getting all of the schooling paid for.
“These young women represent the best of what we do. Yes, they are ready to take the next step competitively. But, more importantly, they are ready to take the next step in life,” said Eric McDonald, Heat FC competitive director.
Other Heat players to sign include: Green Valley High's Lauren Aronson (Vanguard University) and Caitlyn Chamberlin (Colorado State-Pueblo), Kencie Ely with Embry-Riddle and Arbor View's Vanessa Martinez with William Penn. Also, Niccole Mullins from Basic signed with Cal-State Humboldt, Cassidy Entsminger of Liberty with Wyoming and Arbor View's Alexis Pryor with Highline Community College.