BATON ROUGE - The first Wednesday in February is one of the most anticipated days of the year by college soccer programs across the country as recruits cast their lot and join the NCAA ranks by signing a National Letter of Intent as part of National Signing Day festivities.
And Wednesday is certainly a historic day in the life of the LSU Soccer program as the Tigers are excited to announce their Class of 2013 with an international flair as five world-class recruits have inked National Letters of Intent to join the squad for start of the 2013 regular season.
The Tigers have certainly solidified their foundation on each level of the field with impact performers and World Cup veterans from such countries as Canada, Mexico and New Zealand.
Joining the LSU Soccer program as part of a heralded Class of 2013 are striker Summer Clarke (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada), midfielders Emma Fletcher (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) and Natalia Gomez-Junco (Monterrey, Mexico), and defenders Megan Lee (Auckland, New Zealand) and Rebecca Pongetti (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) with their signing on Wednesday.
LSU's recruiting class combined for 16 games played with 15 starts for their countries at the FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 Women's World Cups held during the 2012 season.
"This is truly a historic day for LSU Soccer as we welcome five world-class athletes into the program and turn our attention to preparing for the 2013 season," said LSU head coach Brian Lee. "LSU is a brand that reaches across the globe, and we're fortunate to sign a class today with such an international pedigree that will help us compete for SEC Championships and College Cups in the coming years.
"Each one of these young women will have an opportunity to step on the field and make an impact on our program from the start. We're very excited about what 2013 will bring for LSU Soccer."
Clarke and Pongetti led the U-17 Canadian Women's National Team to a berth in the quarterfinals during the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup held in Azerbaijan in September and October.
Clarke is a rising star in the Canadian Women's National Team system as of the emerging talents in North America with her performance over the past year. As the team's leading scorer in 2012, Clarke set the Canadian U-17 national record with six goals scored at 2012 Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Association Football Women's U-17 Championships en route to a World Cup berth.
After arriving in Azerbaijan, Clarke cracked Canada's starting 11 in three of four games played during the World Cup, even scoring the game-winning goal in a 1-0 shutout of Colombia back on Sept. 23.
A product of R.C. Palmer Secondary School, Clarke followed her appearance at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup as one of three members of Canada's U-17 squad to receive an invitation to train with the senior Canadian Women's National Team during its December training camp.
While Clarke provided Canada with a scoring punch on the front line, Pongetti kept opposing offenses off the scoreboard by anchoring the back line from her center back position. Pongetti bolsters the middle of LSU's defense as she projects as either a center back or defensive midfielder for the Tigers.
Pongetti, who hails from St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, has earned 10 international caps in her stint with the U-17 Canadian Women's National Team in the last two seasons, including four starts during this year's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. She also served as the team captain of Canada's U-15 squad in the 2010 season, as well as the Ontario Provincial Team in 2009 and 2010.
While the Tigers are proud to add two Canadian U-17 internationals to their roster in 2013, they have also inked two Young Football Ferns who also competed with New Zealand at the U-17 World Cup by signing Fletcher and Lee to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
Fletcher, who hails from Semiahmoo High School in her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, is sure to be one of the premier attacking midfielders in North America to join the NCAA ranks in 2013.
Fletcher has developed at the highest levels of youth soccer worldwide with the Women's National Team systems in both Canada and New Zealand as a youth. She competed with New Zealand's U-17 squad with both the 2011 and 2012 seasons as her father, Stefan, is a native New Zealander.
Fletcher played all but five minutes of group play at this season's FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, while earning a total of eight caps with the squad over the past two seasons. She also cut her teeth in the sport as a member of the U-15 Canadian Women's National Team during the 2010 season while also competing at the National Training Center in Vancouver as part of the U-14, U-15 and U-16 divisions.
An emerging star in New Zealand football, Lee will join the LSU program after finishing up her studies at Massey High School where she has earned her reputation as a talented left winger and left back.
While Lee is likely to join the Tigers as a left back for the 2013 season, she also has the ability to compete on the wing as demonstrated in her three seasons with the U-17 New Zealand Women's National Team at the youth level. She has represented her country in each of the past two FIFA U-17 Women's World Cups in 2010 and 2012 while earning a total of 15 international caps with the squad.
Lee, who scored her first international goal for New Zealand against Papua New Guinea in its World Cup qualifier on April 13 of last year, recently received an invitation to train with the senior New Zealand Women's National Team in 2013 in preparation for its appearance at the Cypress Cup.
Gomez-Junco, the Mexican U-20 international, enrolled at LSU in January for the start of the 2013 spring semester following her transfer from the University of Memphis. In two seasons at Memphis, she scored a total of 10 goals and two assists for 22 points as one of the elite attacking midfielders in Conference USA. Gomez-Junco debuted with eight goals and 17 points during her freshman season in 2011 while capturing a well-deserved selection to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
A veteran of the Mexican Women's National Team system, Gomez-Junco made seven appearances with a strong Mexican squad at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in 2010 and 2012.
Gomez-Junco scored two goals for Mexico in her seven career appearances at the U-20 World Cup, as she led her country to back-to-back quarterfinals in 2010 and 2012. She was also Mexico's top goal scorer for her efforts with six goals at the 2012 CONCACAF Qualification Tournament in Panama.
"We are very excited about the overall talent level of this group. It just shows how hard our coaching staff has worked in identifying and evaluating the best youth players in the world for this recruiting cycle," Lee said. "The work of Debbie Hensley and Kevin Dempsey is to be commended. We have addressed most of our immediate needs while ensuring our long-term success with this year's recruiting class."