The class of five are midfielder Isabelle (Izzy) Byers, forward Megan Gittins, defender Catherine Hartigan, midfielder Jessica Lee and defender Emily Sura. "We are thrilled about our 2016 class. There's a wealth of experience at the national team, club and ODP levels, and with a strong returning group, we have high expectations for the 2012 season."
Byers comes to Princeton from The Plains, Va., where she was been a member of the ODP program at the district, state and Region I levels from 2008-11. Primarily a midfielder, she played her club soccer for the Chantilly Burn, winning Virginia State Cup titles with the Burn and the SYA Freedom. For Wakefield School, she was named the VISAA II state Player of the Year in 2011 after earning first-team all-state honors in 2010 and 2011 and all-conference honors from 2009-11, with the 2012 season still underway. Byers was a four-year letterwinner and two-year team captain at Wakefield.
Byers on Princeton: "I knew I wanted to come to Princeton after I attended one of its soccer camps. I loved everything about the camp, especially the Princeton players who were helping out the coaches as they showed us how to work together effectively. Coach Shackford has an intensity that is contagious, and everyone appreciated and responded to the way she set high expectations in all we did. By the time I visited Princeton as a potential recruit rather than a camper, I knew the dynamic between the coaches and players was everything I wanted in my college playing experience. Coach Shackford builds teams to compete at the highest level and supports the players both on and off the field. This was important to me, and I am so excited to have the chance to be part of this team."
Shackford on Byers: "Up until about three years ago, Izzy was a speedy outside midfielder and only 5-foot-2. Since then, she has sprouted to 5-foot-10 and her game has developed in many different ways because of it. Because she used to be relatively small, her job was just to go one-v-one on the flanks and use her speed. With her growth spurt, she has been able to play in the back and the midfield, and her vision and decision-making now define her as a soccer player. Izzy has had great club and ODP Regional team experiences, and we will expect her to compete for a spot in the middle of the field.
Gittins, who can play both up front and in the midfield, comes to Princeton from University Park, Texas, where she scored 70 career goals and had 47 career assists for Highland Park High School. This season, she had 29 goals and 18 assists en route to a state championship and a Dallas Morning News Player of the Year honor. She was selected as the all-district offensive MVP in 2009, an all-district honoree from 2010-12, and an all-region and all-state honoree in 2011 and 2012. She was a Highland Park Cornerstone Athlete Award winner in 2011 and 2012 for her athletic, academic and community accomplishments. On the club scene, Gittins played for the Sting 94 ECNL team, making the top-20 national team in 2011 and 2012. She was a part of the all-event team at the ECNL National Tournament in 2011 and was a Top Drawer Soccer top-20 regional player to watch in each of the last three years.
Gittins on Princeton: "I fell in love with the school and campus when I attended soccer camp the summer after my freshman year. Over the next two years, I got to meet some of the players and prospective players and spent time in the community. Everyone in the Princeton area was always so friendly and helpful. Princeton very quickly became my first choice for where I wanted to attend college and play soccer."
Shackford on Gittins: "Megan is a forward or midfielder with good strength and size. We first had her in camp when she was a sophomore in high school in 2009. She stood out even then as a target player who could manipulate the game with her physicality, but she also has great technical and tactical ability too. She plays her competitive club soccer with the Dallas Sting '94, a team that has been ranked as high as third or fourth in the country. Coming off winning a state title at Highland Park and scoring 29 goals and providing 18 assists and being named the Dallas Area Player of the Year, we are looking forward to Megan donning the orange and black."
Hartigan, a central defender, comes to Princeton from Milton, Mass., where she was an all-le ague honoree for three seasons at Milton Academy. She was the team MVP and captain as a senior. In 2011, she helped bring the team to the New England quarterfinals as well as the semifinals in 2009 and 2010. She was an all-state pick in 2011 and 2012 and was a Player to Watch by Top Drawer Soccer while being named an all-scholastic player by the Patriot Ledger newspaper. She was also a four-year basketball letterwinner and team captain as a senior. In club play, she was a member of the ECNL Scorpions Soccer Club for eight years.
Hartigan on Princeton: "After watching several games, I was very impressed with the speed and level of play and thought that the Princeton program would be a great fit for me."
Shackford on Hartigan: "Catherine is a central defender with a lot of athleticism and the ability to attack out of the back. She is a natural leader on the field and is not afraid to attack out of the back, despite playing as a defender. She is also great in the air and embraces physical battles. She is a triplet and it is clear that she has two brothers, since she is a tough, gritty and confident athlete."
Jessica Lee comes to Princeton from Fort Lee, N.J., where she had several stints with the United States U-15 and U-17 Youth National Teams and was selected for the Super-Y League Select National Team in 2008. A central midfielder, she was also a Region 1 ODP and New Jersey ODP team member. Lee plays club soccer for World Class, an ECNL club and the same club that produced Princeton's all-time leading scorer and current assistant coach Esmeralda Negron ‘05. She played for the Dwight-Englewood School as a junior and senior, earning MVP, first-team all-league, NSCAA Youth All-Region and the school's Boling Award as a junior. As a senior, she captained the team to a league championship and the state sectional finals, earning MVP, first-team all-league, Bergen Record first team and second-team all-county honors. As a freshman and sophomore, she attended Tenafly High School, earning MVP, BCSL American first-team all-league and NJGSCA all-state honors as a freshman before not playing due to injury as a sophomore.
Lee on Princeton: "Princeton is unique in that it offers both an exceptional education and soccer program. With strong academics, a beautiful campus, experienced coaches, a welcoming team and a great stadium, Princeton is a place where I look forward to spending the next four years of my life."
Shackford on Lee: "Jessica is a central midfielder that plays for the World Class Soccer Club in North Jersey. The club also produced former players Tanya Kalivas '01, Kristina Fontanez '05 and current assistant coach and former star student-athlete, Esmeralda Negron '05. She has been in phenomenal training environments throughout her career. She has good size and she can pass with the best of them. She has also played with the United States' U-15 and U-17 National teams for several events in the past few years. It is a feat to be able to play at that level, and her national-team experiences have matured her into an overall player. We are looking forward to Jess making an impact in the midfield.
Emily Sura, a left back, comes to Princeton from Austin, Texas where she attended St. Stephen's Episcopal School and plays club soccer for the Lonestar ECNL team. She served as captain at St. Stephen's as a senior.
Sura on Princeton: "I chose Princeton because I think it has a very strong program that will help me grow as a soccer player and as a person. I love the coaches and the current team members and the team has a bright future."
Shackford on Sura: "Emmy is a natural left back. Soccer players who embrace this spot on the field are few and far between. Emmy is one of those players. She loves the role, has great athleticism and can add in as an attacker because of her skill, beyond that she can really launch a ball with the left foot. She has also been a camper the last two years and gets better every time we see her. I am so impressed with her ability, consistency and overall competitiveness, and her passion for the game is contagious."