HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi soccer team signed eight players to National Letters of Intent (NLI) over the week. The Golden Eagles officially inked Beth Coleman (Laurel, Miss.), Kayla Davis (Round Rock, Texas), Sarah Fortenberry (Hattiesburg, Miss.), Alexia Hix (Flower Mound, Texas), Tianna Little (Pensacola, Fla.), Andrea Rivera (Pensacola, Fla.), Cheyenne Rodriguez (Bastrop, Texas) and Karen Torres (Houston, Texas). In addition, Southern Miss added Allie Baumhower (Fairhope, Ala.) and Lyndsey Lee (Picayune, Miss.) to the 2014 roster.
"Over all this freshmen class will add an athletic dimension," head coach Mohammed El-Zare said. "They all come from clubs with good teachers of the game and expect them to quickly clematises into the college game and student-athlete life style."
Coleman lettered at West Jones High School in Laurel, Miss. for six years. She helped the Mustangs to State Championship (2009, 2011), State Runner-Up (2010, 2012) and District Championship (2013). Coleman was named First Team All-District as a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior, while earning First Team All-State accolades as a junior and senior. She scored 85 career goals with 113 career assists for 283 career points in high school. Coleman set the West Jones HS all-time record for assists and is a member of 100/100 Club for WJHS for 100 career goals and 100 career assists. She played club soccer with Gulf Coast United FC and Mississippi Fuego, helping Gulf Coast to a pair of championships. Her club team ranked fourth in the region by Top Drawer Soccer in 2010. In addition to soccer, Coleman also ran track, earning All-Region and All-District honors and winning a District Championship in the 800m (2009). She is an honor student who is set to graduate summa cum laude.
"Beth is a local player who comes from a club team, which continues to develop technically sound players in our area," stated El-Zare. "Beth is a versatile player and we expect her to contribute in multiple roles in the back and forward line."
Davis lettered at Round Rock High School in Round Rock, Texas. She was named Honorable Mention All-District as a freshman and junior. Davis scored seven career goals, including four as a freshman and three as a sophomore before moving to the back row. She played club soccer with the Lonestars. In addition to soccer, Davis is an honor student and member of the National Honor Society.
"Kayla reads the game well and has a wonderful position sense, as well as passing range," El-Zare stated. "Kayla is an artist and look forward to bring her creative side playing from a defenders role."
Fortenberry played at Forrest County Agricultural High School in Brooklyn, Miss. She was named First Team All-Region as a junior and senior. Fortenberry was selected to the Mississippi High School All-Star Team as a senior. She was named Rookie of the Year (2009), Offensive MVP (2011, 2012, 2013) and MVP (2013). Fortenberry scored 130 career goals, adding 35 career assists for 295 career points. She helped the Aggies to a school record 17-2-0 as a senior. Fortenberry played club soccer with Gulf Coast United, helping GCU to Mississippi Cup Championships (U-12, U-17) and South Gulf States Premiere League Championships (U-16, U-17). She also lettered in track & field and was a member of the cheerleading, dance and powerlifting teams.
"Sarah is another local talent that we are proud of signing at Southern Miss," commented El-Zare. "She is very fast and has the ability to get herself in good position to score."
Hix lettered at Flower Mound High School in Flower Mound, Texas. She was named Honorable Mention All-District as a junior. Hix helped lead the Jaguars to the District Championship in 2012. She played club soccer with the Texas Spirit North 96. Off the field, Hix is an honor student and member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta (Mathematics Honor Society).
"Alexia is a very competitive player who hates losing," El-Zare said. "She is very comfortable on the ball and possesses extremely great pace. She will be a transitional player with excellent aerobic capacity and understanding of flank play."
Little played soccer at Pensacola High School in Pensacola, Fla. She was named First Team All-Area as a junior and Second Team All-Area as a freshman. She helped lead the Tigers to the Region Semifinals as a freshman and Region Finals as a sophomore. Her best game came against Escambia HS, scoring three goals and adding two assists (8 points) in a 6-0 victory. Little recorded the game-winning header for the golden goal in an overtime win over Choctawhatchee HS (W, 2-1); finishing the game with two goals. She played club soccer with the Dallas Texans Florida and received an invitation for the Olympic Development Program (ODP). In the classroom, Little is an honor student.
"Tiana is a late maturation player that we discovered late in the process," El-Zare said. "She possesses great pace and the ability to defend one on one without cover, which is an asset to have. I look forward for Tiana to contribute in our back and midfield line."
Rivera played soccer at West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Pensacola, Fla. She scored 38 goals with 28 assists for 104 career points. Rivera played club soccer with Gulf Coast Texans. She participated in the Olympic Development Program in Montevallo, Ala. Off the field, Rivera is an honor student.
"Andrea is a student of the game, who is always watching and analyzing matches at the professional leagues," said El-Zare. "Beside her creative attacking game, Andrea brings a passion and love for the game second to none."
Rodriguez played soccer at Bastrop High School in Bastrop, Texas. She helped lead the Bears to the playoffs during three seasons - District 49-4A Champions in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Bi-District Champions in 2011, 2012 and 2013; Area Champions in 2011. Rodriguez was named First Team All-District as a freshman and District Defensive MVP as a sophomore and junior. She scored 15 goals in first three years of high school. Rodriguez played club soccer with Lonestar Soccer Club and won the Texas National Cub State Championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013; and the Premier League West in 2011, 2012 and 2013. In addition to soccer, she also ran cross country, earning Second Team All-District honors and finishing as District Runner-Up in 2013. In the classroom, Rodriguez is an honor student and member of the National Honor Society.
"Off the field, Cheyenne is an artist," El-Zare stated. "From full back position, I look for her to bring that creative side onto to the field attacking from the back and delivering crosses into the box. What makes Cheyenne effective is her simplicity of playing on both ends of the field."
Torres was a four-year letterwinner at Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas. She played club soccer at Houston Express Soccer Club, advancing to the Final Four at the National Soccer Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
"Karen played for a club in Houston where she received an excellent soccer education," said El-Zare. "When I saw Karen, within seconds, I knew we wanted her at Southern Miss. She is highly creative and comfortable under pressure. She understands the subtleties of the game and adapt to changes of moments within the game."
Baumhower played defense at Fairhope High School in Fairhope, Ala. She helped the Pirates to the County Championship in eighth grade. Baumhower was named Most Valuable Player at the County Tournament. She played club soccer with the Gulf Coast Texans and Olympic Development Program (ODP) State Team. Baumhower helped her club team win the Jacksonville Labor Day Showcase. Off the field, Baumhower is an honor student.
"We have been keeping an eye on Allie for a while," El-Zare commented. "Allie is a late maturation player that has been developing at an exceptional rate over the past 12 months. I expect Allie to contribute to our back and midfield line."
Lee lettered at Our Lady Academy in Bay St. Louis, Miss. for three seasons before missing her junior and senior years with a pair of ACL injuries. She is a member of three State Championship teams - 2010, 2011, 2012. Lee was named First Team All-State as a sophomore, First Team All-Area as a sophomore and First Team All-District as a freshman and sophomore. She named sophomore team captain and Offensive MVP. She played club soccer with Gulf Coast United and the Mississippi Olympic Development Program (ODP) State Team, helping her club teams win 2010 MSA State Championship, 2011 MSA Runner-Up, 2012 and 2013 Gulf States Premier League Championships and 2013 US Club Soccer Championships. Lee received an invitation to US National Club Championships. In the classroom, she is an honor student and member of the National Honor Society.
"Lyndsey is player that I've known for several years in our local area," stated El-Zare. "Beside her soccer and athletic talent, Lyndsey is an outstanding competitor with mental toughness that will inspire everyone she is around. Her energy is contagious."
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