NATCHITOCHES — Riding momentum from the program’s first postseason appearance since 2008, Northwestern State soccer coach George Van Linder announced a dynamic seven-player signee class Wednesday.
The group features three defenders, one midfielder, one forward, one goalkeeper and one utility player as Van Linder strived to find players who can step in for this year’s 10-player senior class.
“We have a lot of good players currently, so the challenge was to go out and get players who can push our current players to new heights while complementing them as well,” said Van Linder, the reigning Louisiana Co-Coach of the Year. “Although we had a lot of interest after this past season, we just didn’t want to take anyone.
“We felt like this group of players gave us the most versatility and competitive fire, and they also all seem to be a great fit personality wise. We wanted to go ahead and work on replacing a talented group of 10 seniors we have this upcoming season, but we were also looking for players who can help our team bring another conference championship to this program.”
Goalkeeper Abigail Pangallo won two state championships and a national championship (MaxPreps.com) at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Pangallo was a two-time all-area player (Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel) who’s played with the top club team in Florida (Sunrise Sting).
“Abigail has great size and stays connected to her back line,” Van Linder said. “Her club team recently won the prestigious Disney tournament, so she comes in with the expectation of winning, and she’s a great student.”
A trio of defenders in Alexis Gomez (Cypress, Texas), Robyn Larson (Riverview, Fla.) and Ashley Medawattage (Edmond, Okla.) will attempt to bolster a back line that lost all-conference performer Patry Carrion.
Gomez is a three-time academic all-district selection who led Cypress Ranch High to the last two playoffs.
Larson was named the best offensive player on her Riverview High team as a sophomore and MVP as a junior. She also lettered in track for two seasons.
Medawattage is a two-time all-conference selection who guided her Edmond North High team to the third round of the playoffs as a junior.
“Alexis is a great athlete who can come out of the back and get involved in the attack, and she’s a player who’s improved a lot in the last few years and can continue to improve,” Van Linder said. “Robyn can help us in a lot of areas, and she is a bit of free-kick specialist who’s scored a lot of goals from the midfield.
“Ashley is a soccer junkie who can also come out of the back on the attack. She works extremely hard and is focused on being a strong player.”
Midfielder Alexis Weaver (Venice, Fla.) played with Larson on the West Florida Flames. Weaver is a two-time HTPreps All-Area first teamer and a three-time team MVP for Venice High. She led the tri-county area in assists as a junior this past season.
“(Weaver) is a central midfielder who is comfortable in an attacking or defensive role,” Van Linder said. “She takes great pride in being strong in the air, and she also likes to get forward and take shots from distance.”
Forward/midfielder Gabriella Gamboa (Prosper, Texas) is a successful goal scorer at Prosper High and on her elite FC Dallas team in the ECNL.
Nicknamed “Yeaya,” Gamboa is a two-time co-offensive MVP who produced nine goals and nine assists as a junior.
“She is a strong player and is someone who can crack a shot from distance,” Van Linder said. “We love how she continually puts herself under pressure to score goals and turns in good performances.”
Canadian Paityn Bretzer (Edmonton, Alberta) is also a proven scorer at forward, rising to the top of the club ranks with Southwestern United.
Bretzer, the team MVP at Archbishop MacDonald High, won nine different gold and silver medals in club and national soccer, including gold at the 2016 Ottawa Showcase of Champions and the 2014 Puma Rimland Pacific Cup.
“Paityn traveled the U.S. last summer and attended very large soccer camps where she was continually placed on the all-star team,” Van Linder said. “She can score goals off a great left foot, and she is versatile enough to play on the outside if we needed her to be a midfielder.”
2017 Northwestern State Signing Class
Paityn Bretzer F 5-6 Fr.-HS Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (Archbishop MacDonald)
Gabriella Gamboa F/MF 5-3 Fr.-HS Prosper, Texas (Prosper HS)
Alexis Gomez D 5-7 Fr.-HS Cypress, Texas (Cypress Ranch HS)
Robyn Larson D 5-8 Fr.-HS Riverview, Florida (Riverview HS)
Ashley Medawattage D 5-3 Fr.-HS Edmond, Oklahoma (Edmond North HS)
Abby Pangallo GK 5-8 Fr.-HS Fort Lauderdale, Florida (St. Thomas Aquinas HS)
Alexis Weaver MF 5-5 Fr.-HS Venice, Florida (Venice, HS)