UCLA women's soccer signs 2016 class

February 4, 2016

UCLA Women’s Soccer has assembled a star-studded recruiting class for the 2016 season, highlighted by No. 1 recruit and U.S. Women’s National Team member Mallory Pugh and Canadian Women’s National Team member and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup veteran Jessie Fleming. Also signing with UCLA are U.S. Youth National Team members Marley Canales, Sunny Dunphy, Jayce Pederson and Kaiya McCullough, and JUCO All-American Julia Hernandez.

“Signing Day is always an exciting time for the staff as we spend years recruiting these young women, and finally the day is here that they officially join the UCLA Bruin family,” said UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell. “This tremendous class addresses some of the needs we have from the graduation of three amazing groups of seniors (2013, 2014, and 2015). We are excited about the progress our current team is making this spring, and it will be exciting to see the whole group, newcomers and veterans, together next fall.”

Pugh, a forward from Highlands Ranch, Colo., is currently with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Olympic qualifying tournament, which runs from Feb. 10-21 in Texas. On Jan. 23, Pugh became the sixth-youngest player ever to score for the U.S. Women’s National Team when she scored in her international debut against Ireland. Pugh won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championships and was the leading scorer at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championships. The No. 1 recruit in the nation, Pugh was selected the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2014-15 and was named the 2015 U.S. Soccer Young Player of the Year.

“Mallory Pugh is the best player in youth soccer in the U.S., and getting her to UCLA was a top priority for our staff,” said Cromwell. “Mal has the It Factor! She changes games in a moment with a quick decisive dribble. She has the game intelligence to slice through the defense without the ball to create goals in high level games. She is the player that other coaches stay up at night trying to figure out how to contain. Mal chose UCLA because she could balance her U.S. Soccer dreams and get an elite college education that secures her future beyond soccer in the process.” 

Fleming, a midfielder from London, Ontario, Canada, made her Canadian Women’s National Team debut in 2013 when she was 15 years old. She has 21 career caps to her credit and played with Canada at both the 2015 Women’s World Cup and the Pan American Games. Fleming won the Golden Ball and a team silver medal at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championships and played in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in 2014 and the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2014. Canada’s U-17 Player of the Year in 2014 and the U-20 Player of the Year in 2015, Fleming is currently with the Canadian Women’s National Team at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Texas.

“Jessie is our most experienced senior national team player with 21 caps and is the top youth soccer player coming out of Canada,” Cromwell said. “She has what a coach loves in a center midfielder, a mix of being an extraordinary fit runner and a soccer player with vision. Jessie reads the game as well as any player I’ve seen, and she will be on every team’s scouting report from day one. Jessie can do it all, on the dribble, off the ball, final pass and score the goal. She is coming to UCLA because she wants to become an engineer and continue on with the Canadian National Team.”  

Canales, a midfielder from San Diego, Calif., is a member of the U.S. Under-20 National Team squad that won the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. She has been with the Youth National Team program since 2011 and played at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Championships, the 2015 U-20 La Manga Tournament and the 2015 U-20 NTC Invitational. She is a three-time NSCAA Youth All-American.   

“Marley is a true box-to-box midfielder who absolutely runs opponents into the ground,” described Cromwell. “She has years of experience with various U.S. Youth National Teams that will serve her well in Westwood. Anytime we spoke to anyone in San Diego about Marley we always received the same feedback - she is a coach’s dream and works hard on her own time to perfect her craft. Marley was a heavily-recruited player, and we are thrilled to have her at UCLA.”

Dunphy, a forward from Carlsbad, Calif., has been in the U.S. Youth National Team program since participating in the U-15 national team camp in 2013. That year, she was selected to the USYS National Championship Best 11 team, and she went on to play on the USYS ODP National Championship teams in 2014 and 2015. She most recently participated in the U-18 National Team camp in December.

“At the age of 14 everyone knew Sunny Dunphy’s name in Southern California,” Cromwell stated. “She was the towering forward that scored goals in buckets. Not much has changed for Sunny in three years; she is still an imposing goal scorer that has power from range. It’s been fun to watch Sunny develop into a feared ECNL and U18 US National Team striker. We look forward to helping her reach her full potential. We expect big things in the future and are excited to have Sunny’s free spirit join our team.”

Pederson, a midfielder/defender from Palo Alto, Calif., is the younger sister of Los Angeles Dodger outfielder and MLB all-star Joc Pederson and has been with the U.S. Youth National Team program since 2012. Currently with the U-19 National Team, she was a NSCAA Youth All-American in 2015 and a two-time league MVP and the 2014-15 Central Coast Section Player of the Year while at Palo Alto HS.

“We saw Jacey in the U-17 National Team camp, and she showed a great versatility, but it was at our Winter ID camp that she impressed us as the best player on the pitch,” said Cromwell. “She is a player who possesses power, technique, and a strong competitive spirit. What really makes her unique is the ability to easily play on all three lines (defense, midfield, forward) and on either side of the pitch. Jacey comes from an athletic family, and we know she is ready for this challenge at UCLA.”

McCullough, a defender from Mission Viejo, Calif., also comes from an athletic family, as both of her parents were student-athletes at UCLA. Her father Abdul McCullough was a member of UCLA’s 1994 Rose Bowl team and UCLA Football’s co-MVP in 1995. Her mother Amy Thorne was an All-American in 1992 and the first UCLA gymnast ever to score a perfect 10. Kaiya began playing with the U.S. U-18 National Team in 2015 and played on two USYS ODP National Championship squads.

“Kaiya comes from UCLA royalty and has been a Bruin since birth,” said Cromwell. “She is the defender for the modern game - intelligent, athletic, strong, fast, and she wants the ball. We think she has really developed into a college-ready player over the past two seasons. She has become one of the best defenders in ECNL and broke into the U.S. U-18/19 National Team over the past year. We know Kaiya will get goosebumps at her first opportunity to put the Blue and Gold kit over her head.”

Hernandez, a forward from Madrid Spain, was a JUCO All-American as a freshman last season at Eastern Florida State College. She led her team to a runner-up finish at the National Championships and scored the golden goal in the national semifinal, one of 26 goals she scored in 2015. She ranked fifth in the nation in both goals and points (65). Hernandez attended Spanish U-15, U-16 and U-17 National Team camps and was a two-time U-18 Spanish National Champion.

“When we were trying to balance out this recruiting class, we wanted a player who makes everyone around her better, and we found that in Julia,” Cromwell said. “She brings this Spanish sense of awareness on the field in her ability to see the run before others see it or find the pass that puts a teammate in. Also, she can score spectacular goals in a variety of ways. Julia was a standout All- American at EFSC, and we expect her to have a similar impact for the Bruins over the next three years.”

The 2016 UCLA freshman class is already projected as the No. 1 class in the nation and arguably one of the greatest recruiting classes of all-time.

“What we love about this class is that they are coming to UCLA to be great - great students, great people, and great players,” said Cromwell. “This greatness extends to the classroom, the field, our culture, and all of UCLA Athletics. We truly want players who seek out the best, who thrive on the challenge, and want to be part of something great. That is the DNA of this signing class. Almost all of the student-athletes at UCLA have dreams of playing their sport beyond college, but they also have a clear understanding that life beyond soccer involves getting a quality education. UCLA is the best place in the country to be supported while chasing dreams on and off the field.”

2016 UCLA Women’s Soccer Signees

Marley Canales, MF, San Diego, Calif. (Westview HS/San Diego Surf
Sunny Dunphy, F, Carlsbad, Calif. (Cathedral Catholic HS/San Diego Surf
Jessie Fleming, MF, London, Ontario, Canada (H.B. Beal Secondary School/Canadian National Team) 
Julia Hernandez, F, Madrid, Spain (Eastern Florida State College) 
Kaiya McCullough, D, Mission Viejo, Calif. (El Toro HS/San Diego Surf
Jacey Pederson, D/MF, Palo Alto, Calif. (Palo Alto HS/PSV Union FC) 
Mallory Pugh, F, Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Mountain Vista HS/Real Colorado/U.S. National Team)

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