Marc Gordon detailed the signees of Northwest soccer’s 2018-19 recruiting class in the confines of his Lamkin office on a nondescript day in mid-November.
Northwest soccer wrapped up its worst season in program history just a few weeks before with a 1-0 loss to Lindenwood that secured a 2-15 record for the year. But just a day before, the team promoted good news on the heels of a season filled with the opposite.
The Bearcats signed eight athletes for their 2019 season, kicking off the first recruiting class for Gordon at Northwest. The announcement came with a slew of briefings from other Northwest sports, all of which had signed somewhere between two and four athletes.
Northwest soccer’s total of eight made every other sport’s class seem light, though Gordon didn’t see it that way.
“We’re not done,” Gordon said.
The recruiting class was wide-ranging in more ways than one. The Bearcats nabbed players from nearly every position, with those players’ homes ranging from Council Bluffs to Belgium and from Kansas to California.
“I think we have a solid group that will make us more competitive,” Gordon said. “It will be interesting to see how they blend with returning players, but I think we’ve identified some players that are going to committed to our process and help us to hopefully move things forward.”
Northwest’s recruiting class included midfielders Teagan Blackburn, Kaitlyn Case, Merel Marting and Grayson Seevers, forwards Kaylie Rock and Atiana Stratman, striker Caroline Sanders and goalkeeper Grace Goetsch.
According to Gordon, each player signed stands out in their own way, with each bringing something different to the program.
“Teagan Blackburn is one that probably slipped through the cracks on some bigger places,” Gordon said. “There was a Big 10 school that we managed to acquire her before they got her, so we’re excited about that.”
Gordon said Blackburn, an Iowa native, will bring a high level of physicality and a strong sense of the game to the program. Gordon described Blackburn as attack-oriented, a point of emphasis for this year’s recruiting class.
Another focus for Northwest this offseason was bringing in a goalkeeper. In Atiana Stratman, a native of Paso Robles, California, Gordon found exactly what he was looking for. Gordon first took notice of Stratman on a recruiting trip late last summer, before his first season at Northwest even began.
“I was in California to observe some goalkeepers. (Stratman) happened to be on the field during one of those games, and she stuck out to me as a strong player,” Gordon said. “We found out later from (current freshman goalkeeper) Alexis Serna Castillo, we were at training one day and she said, ‘Coach, did you know you’re recruiting my best friend?’ So, that became a natural connection.”
Perhaps the most unlikely member of Northwest’s recruiting class is Merel Marting, whose hometown is Riemst, Belgium, more than 4,500 miles away from Bearcat Pitch.
“(Marting is) the first international signee for me in a very, very long time,” Gordon said. “We’re excited to have her. She’s a very attack-oriented player.”
Gordon and company utilized talent agencies, game tapes and Skype calls to determine if Marting was the kind of player he was looking for, and ultimately decided she was. The increased focus on scoring goals helped ensure that Marting was a good fit.
Gordon raved about the potential of nearly every player on the list and was sure to stress that each player he signed would have an impact on Northwest over the next four seasons. The eight players signed and those who may follow will be Gordon’s first direct recruits to suit up for the Bearcats.
“I’m hopeful,” Gordon said. “This is kind of my initial recruiting class. This is me. Their productivity can change the course of the program. I think we have the right pieces in place going forward.”