Eagles sign three Spokane natives and a versatile junior college transfer out of Hayden, Idaho
Eastern Washington University head women's soccer coach George Hageage did not have to travel far to find the quality of person and player he desired for the program. Of the six new athletes who have signed national letters of intent to play soccer at Eastern starting in 2012, three are from the Spokane area, and another is a product of Lake City High School in Hayden, Idaho.
This crop of local talent includes three freshmen and a junior-college transfer. The 2010 Great Northern League Player of the Year, Amanda Bliesner of East Valley High School, will begin her Eagle career next fall, as will University High standouts Taylor Berdar and Shayla Weiler, both of whom were All-Greater Spokane League First-Team selections in 2011.
Nicole Medeiros, who originally hails from Hayden, Idaho, will also join the team after two successful seasons at North Idaho College.
"Having an opportunity to see these players in local high school and club matches, and them being able to come out and watch us was huge," said Hageage. "We feel that kind of familiarity is so important for us at this point in our development."
"After all the work we put in last year to change what we do in terms of our system, the way we run practices, and our expectations on and off the field, the last thing I wanted to do was bring in players who weren't going to buy into that system," added Hageage. "These local athletes are not only talented soccer players, but they are familiar with our team and the coaching staff, and they understand what we do and where we want this program to go, and that was as important as anything when recruiting this season."
In addition to the local products, Hageage has also signed Kristina Nelson from Ferndale, Wash., and Rachel Robertson from Kea'au, Hawaii - both of whom will satisfy a need the Eagles have on the defensive end of the field.
"Defensively, we knew we had to get stronger and deeper, and I think we addressed that need pretty well," said Hageage. "Last season, we had players in our back line who were never really defenders to begin with. They did a great job for us, and may end up staying in those positions, but when recruiting this year, we knew we wanted to develop depth with players who had experience playing multiple positions in the back. I think a lot of the recruits coming in, especially the defenders, could end up being starters for us because of the skill set and knowledge they have already."
Although defense was a major concern this year, Hageage also wanted to address the need for a consistent goal scorer. Bliesner and Weiler are both strong forwards who may be able to fill that role immediately, but the Eagles may also look to a couple of walk-ons to help in that area.
"Because of the new system we implemented last season, we definitely focused on bringing in players who are attack-minded, who can hold the ball and make good decisions," said Hageage. "We actually have a lot of forwards on the roster, but are still looking for one who can step up to be a consistent scorer. We also had to consider speed and quickness with it all. But I think with the players we've signed, and also with some of the walk-ons, we hopefully have the right mix."
Eastern Women's Soccer 2012 Recruiting Class
Taylor Berdar (Spokane, Wash. | University HS '12)
George Hageage on Berdar: "Taylor will add some athleticism and grit to our back line. She has speed and a lot of upside as a player. Her best years as a soccer player are ahead of her."
High School: Three-year varsity letterwinner for the University Titans… Helped lead her team to a district championship, and a spot in the 2009 4A state tournament…Named to the 2011 All-Greater Spokane League First Team as a defender…Also lettered three years in basketball…Four-year member of the Honor Society.
Personal: Daughter of Clifford and Shelley Berdar…Mother, Shelley, also attended EWU…plans to major in nursing.
Amanda Bliesner (Spokane, Wash. | East Valley HS '12)
George Hageage on Bliesner: "Amanda scored a ton of goals throughout her prep career. She reminds me a lot of Whitney Brannan [three-time All-Big Sky selection and EWU record holder for goals, assists and points]. I will look for Amanda to be another goal scoring threat up top."
High School: Named the 2010 Great Northern League Offensive MVP after leading her team to a GNL regular-season title with a 10-2 league record…Was the leading scorer in the GNL as a junior with 17 goals…That same year, Bliesner led the Knights to a regional championship and the school's first-ever berth in the semifinals of the 2A state tournament…East Valley returned to the Final Four in 2011, Bliesner's senior year…Was a 2010 2A All-State Second Team selection as a forward… Before East Valley dropped down to Class 2A in 2010, Bliesner was named to the 2009 All-Greater Spokane League Honorable Mention squad…As a freshman, she helped lead the Knights to a regional championship and spot in the 3A state tournament... Voted by her teammates as the MVP for three-consecutive seasons, and was team captain her junior and senior years…Also played four years of club soccer for the Spokane Shadow, including three years on a team that competed in the Player Development League…In 2011, her club team finished third at the FC Portland College Showcase, and in 2010, it finished in the top eight of the WSYSA State Cup…Honor Roll student from 2008-10, and a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and Washington Drug Free Youth.
Personal: Daughter of Craig and Kelly Bliesner…Plans to major in education with aspirations of becoming a teacher and coach.
Nicole Medeiros (Hayden, Idaho | Lake City HS '10 | North Idaho College)
George Hageage on Medeiros: "Nicole is an impact player. She is physical, strong in the air and fast. She can run the show in the back, and I look for her to be a leader from day one."
At North Idaho College: Two-year starter for the Cardinals…Played as a forward and defender, recording six goals and one assist throughout her career…Helped lead NIC to a 14-2-1 record in 2011, and an eighth-place ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll.
High School: Four-year varsity letterwinner for the Lake City Timberwovles…Was an Inland Empire League First-Team selection in 2008 and 2009 after earning second-team honors as a sophomore in 2007…Selected as the IEL Defensive MVP in 2009, and was nominated for North Idaho Soccer Player of the Year honors as a junior and senior…Was a member of the Idaho Olympic Development Team in 2008, and participated in the ODP Regional Camp that same year.
Personal: Daughter of Gary and Patricia Medeiros…Plans to major in elementary education at EWU.
Kristina Nelson (Ferndale, Wash. | Ferndale HS '12)
George Hageage on Nelson: "Kristina is a solid defender who seems to remain calm at all times. She makes good decisions with the ball and is good in the air. Her ability to play the ball out of the back fits what we want to do in the new system."
High School: Lettered in both soccer and track and field at Ferndale…Named to the 2010 All-Northwest Conference Honorable Mention team…Played club soccer for Washington Rush, where she won a U.S. Club Soccer Nationals title.
Personal: Daughter of David and Kimberly Nelson.
Rachel Robertson (Kea'au, Hawaii | Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii '12)
George Hageage on Robertson: "Rachel is quick and tenacious in the back. She reminds me of Cynita Mott [two-time All-Big Sky defender]. For us, she could help in a couple different spots, but I would love to see her as an outside back, so we can take advantage of her attacking ability and speed getting up and down the line."
High School: Four-year varsity starter for Kamehameha-Hawaii…Named to the All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II First Team as a junior and senior…Earned Division II All-Tournament Team honors at the 2011 Hawaii State Championships after helping the Warriors to a fourth-place finish.
Personal: Daughter of Tina Helenihi…plans to major in business management.
Shayla Weiler (Spokane, Wash. | University HS '12)
George Hageage on Weiler: "Shayla is a crafty player who gives us a slightly different dimension in the middle or up front. She can take people on and break them down on the dribble or with her ability to pass."
High School: Four-time All-Greater Spokane League selection…Earned first-team honors in 2011, second-team accolades in 2010 and 2009, and was an honorable mention selection as a freshman in 2008…Led the GSL in assists as a sophomore, after ranking second in assists during her freshman season…Led University to back-to-back regional playoffs in 2010 and 2011, as well as a berth in the 2009 4A state tournament…Twice recognized as a preseason "Player to Watch" by the Spokesman-Review…Also played four years of club soccer for Spokane Shadow…Helped lead her club team to the WYSYSA State Cup quarterfinals in 2010 and 2011, and a Las Vegas Mayor's Cup title in 2010…Earned a varsity letter in basketball her senior year…Member of the National Honor Society and the Washington Drug Free Youth Program…Maintained a 4.0 grade point average at University.
Personal: Daughter of Darryl and Lisa Weiler…Mother, Lisa, also attended EWU…plans to major in biology.