SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – The Seton Hall University women’s soccer team has inked seven student-athletes to national letters of intent for the 2013 season for its Class of 2017 it was announced Thursday by head women’s soccer coach Kazbek Tambi.
The versatile recruiting class features two goalkeepers in Illissa Blackshear (West Orange, N.J.) and Stephanie Heber (Rochester Hills, Mich.), a striker Sarah Cortes (Paramus, N.J.), center midfielder Franceska Maier (Oradell, N.J.) and three defensive backs in Catherine Chukuka (Marlboro, N.J.), Sarah Fiorino (Glen Rock, N.J) and Margaret Larsen (Toms River, N.J.).
“I believe this is the top class we have put together here at Seton Hall,” Tambi said. “We have brought in a very talented group of young players who are all passionate about the game and are really looking forward to competing at the highest level in the new BIG EAST.”
Blackshear was a three-sport athlete at West Orange High School where she lettered in soccer, basketball and track. As a freshman she made 198 saves in goal, leading to Second-Team All-State recognition and First-Team All-Conference honors.
She went on to be named First-Team All-Conference for four-straight years, also nabbing First-Team All-County accolades from 2009-11. Blackshear was named one of the top-20 girls soccer players in New Jersey by MSG Varsity heading into her junior season.
“Illissa is a very athletic keeper with excellent technical skills and great instincts,” Tambi said. “She grew up right in the neighborhood and has followed Seton Hall for many years. I know she is very excited to be able to put on a Seton Hall uniform.”
Chukuka is a versatile defender with blazing speed, excelling on the pitch and on the track at Marlboro High School. She played four seasons as a defender at Marlboro, earning Third-Team All-State honors as a junior, and Second-Team accolades as a sophomore, competing at the club level for the NJ Wildcats.
As a track and field athlete during her freshman year she won the NJSIAA State Sectional championship in the 400-meter dash with a time of 59.57, and placed fourth in the freshman 400-meter group at the Nike Indoor Nationals in 2010.
“Cathy is a phenomenal athlete with great strength, speed and pace,” Tambi said. “She has worked hard over the last few years to improve her technical and tactical abilities and we expect her to compete well at the next level.”
A prolific scorer at Paramus High School, Cortes compiled more than 80 goals in her four varsity seasons, receiving First-Team All-League and First-Team All-County honors for her efforts.
A two-sport athlete, Cortes also excelled on the track, finishing her prep career by breaking school records in soccer and track. As a senior she broke the Paramus all-time assist record and also holds the school’s best all-time marks in the 200-meter and 4x200 relay.
“Sarah is a terrific goal scorer,” Tambi said. “She is tenacious, aggressive and skillful and loves to attack the defensive zone and create scoring chances. We think Sarah can develop into a big time scorer.”
Fiorino was a four-year letterwinner in soccer at Glen Rock High School, helping guide Glen Rock to the New Jersey Group II state championship during her senior season. As a defender she finished with five goals and 10 assists, earning All-State, First-Team All-League, All-County and All-North Jersey accolades.
“Sarah is a very intelligent and technical defender,” Tambi said. “One of her most impressive assets is the ability to read and anticipate plays and thus disrupt opponent attacks which is important as it will allow us to transition quickly from defense to the attack.”
Heber is a goalkeeper from Rochester Hills, Mich., where she starred between the posts for four seasons at Rochester High School, posting a 0.53 goals against average. The two-sport athlete also earned four letters in basketball.
She was an All-Conference and All-District selection in addition to receiving Second-Team All-State recognition. Heber played club soccer for the Michigan Football Club in addition to Force F.C. and Waza F.C.
“Stephanie is gifted goalkeeper in that she has athleticism, solid technical skills and plays with the maturity of a more experienced player,” Tambi said. “She is an excellent communicator with her and adds to the overall organization of our players both on offense and defense.”
Larsen earned four varsity letters as a defender at Toms River High School and played club soccer for Match Fit FC.
As a senior, Larsen helped Toms River post a 17-2 overall record and capture the Shore Conference championship. She was a First-Team All-Shore selection in 2012 after receiving Second-Team All-Shore honors as a junior in 2011.
“Meg is a tenacious defender and has always been a defensive leader with every group she has played with,” Tambi said. “She can play defensive positions on the inside and outside which makes her a versatile addition to our back line.”
Maier was a standout midfielder for four seasons at River Dell High School where she finished her career with 52 goals and 45 assists, setting the River Dell single-season assist record with 25. She is ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the state of New Jersey by TopDrawerSoccer.com and was named the NorthJersey.com Player of the Year in 2012.
Maier was an All-State selection as a senior and received back-to-back First-Team All-County honors in 2011 and 2012 and was a four-time First-Team All-League honoree, helping guide River Dell to league titles in 2009 and 2012 and semifinals of the state sectional tournament as a senior.
“We expect that Frankie will add immediate impact to our offensive attack as an inside or outside midfielder who can individually penetrate even from deep positions on the field,” Tambi said.” “She will be a dangerous attacker because she has developed the unique trait of being equally effective and skillful with both her right and left foot.”