College: A fair catch

North Carolina and Notre Dame drew some great players from the West, but Santa Clara got the biggest, and best, class in Region IV.

Santa Clara coach Jerry Smith may not have gotten three of the top players out of the West, but he wouldn't trade the recruiting class he did get.

That's because Smith landed the best classes in the country, probably third after Notre Dame and North Carolina.

With the return of U.S. national team midfielder Jen Lalor from a red-shirt year and defender Sara Barnett from injury and the loss of only one senior starter, Santa Clara could take a page from the 1994 Portland team.

The Pilots were hosting the final four that year, and after getting Tiffeny Milbrett back from a red-shirt year, they played their way to the final four.

Santa Clara -- host of the '96 women's final four -- welcomes a group headed by Mandy Clemens, whom many call the best forward coming out of the West. Clemens, says Smith, is a fearless goalscorer who can score with either foot and is good in the air.

Clemens and Whitney Hollis should combine with returning striker Mikka Hansen to give the Broncos one of the most potent frontlines in the country, while Kiley Bivens, Jacqui Little and Nikki Serlenga will join Lalor and Erin Martinez in a crowded midfield.

"This is definitely our best recruiting class," said Smith. "This not only makes us deep and talented for next season, it gives us a core of players for the next four years."

The players Smith didn't get? Lorrie Fair -- who's currently fighting for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at U.S. training camp in Florida -- is going to North Carolina along with Rebekah McDowell, while goalkeeper Lakeysia Beene is headed to Notre Dame. Fair is regarded by many as the top recruit in the country, with McDowell and Beene not too far behind.

"She's the complete package," Portland and U.S. women's under-20 coach Clive Charles said of Fair. "She's a footballer."

A speedy, versatile player, Fair and McDowell -- a dynamic central midfielder who, like Fair, is an attacking player who gets back well on defense -- should help strengthen the Tar Heels' midfield.

Beene, the best prep goalkeeper in the nation, will likely be an understudy to senior-to-be Jen Renola next season.

"Certainly she has the ability to step in and play at any level," said Petrucelli. "She's very athletic. She's a real leader right from the start. But I think 'Keysia is our goalkeeper for the future."

Fair's twin sister, Ronnie, is headed to Stanford. Not as heralded as Lorrie, Ronnie has made a name for herself with her quickness and skillful, composed play, mostly at sweeper.

Another sibling, Kim Daws, the younger sister of Notre Dame star Cindy, is going to Duke, where the central midfielder should help a team losing several seniors from its 1995 squad.

by Soccer America Associate Editor Dean Caparaz

Soccer America's Women's Super 11 Recruits (Region IV)

GLakeysia BeeneGold River, Calif.Notre Dame
Quick, athletic, best keeper in the country
DRonnie FairLos Altos, Calif.Stanford
Skillful, steady defender, goes forward well
MKiley BivensClaremont, Calif.Santa Clara
Ball winner, can play in the back
MKim DawsNorthridge, Calif.Duke
Skillful midfield general, high work rate
MLorrie FairLos Altos, Calif.North Carolina
Fast, skillful, can play anywhere on the field
MJacqui LittlePacific Palisades, Calif.Santa Clara
Fast, explosive, plays well on both sides
MRebekah McDowellLakewood, Colo.North Carolina
Playmaker, great work rate, tough defensively
MNikki SerlengaEscondido, Calif.Santa Clara
Heady attacking player, great shot
FMandy ClemensSan Diego, Calif.Santa Clara
Good at combination play, West's top striker
FRegina HolanLos Altos, Calif.Portland
Fast, powerful 1-v-1 artist, good finisher
FWhitney HollisLittleton, Colo.Santa Clara
Good target player, active, aggressive
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