Soccer signing class rated among best in Central region, SBC

June 9, 2006 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Middle Tennessee's soccer signing class has been rated No. 23 in the Central Region (out of 68 teams) and second among Sun Belt Conference members in the 2006 Soccer Buzz rankings released this week.

Blue Raider head coach Aston Rhoden followed up the highly-regarded 2005 class with another gem, according to the widely-respected soccer publication.

"Middle Tennessee has had two great back-to-back classes," according to Randy Diggs, editor of the publication. "From our perspective, this was the deepest and most talented group of eligible recruits we have ever seen."

Middle Tennessee's 2006 signing class includes eight newcomers who bring outstanding credentials accrued through their prep careers. This class includes Kate Donnelly, a defender from Canterbury High School in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Lauren Eaton, a defender/midfielder from Coppell (Texas) High School; Kim Farrant, a midfielder/forward from San Diego, Calif.; Jeanette Heltne, a midfielder/forward from Oslo, Norway; Sara Beth Lee, a defender/midfielder from Tuscola High School in Waynesville, N.C.; Erynn Murray, a keeper from R.J. Reynolds High School in Kernersville, N.C.; Jennifer Threlkeld, a forward from Newman Smith High School in Carrollton, Texas; and Mary Zapapas, a defender/midfielder from Arapahoe High School in Littleton, Colo.

Middle Tennessee's class was rated second in a very tight ranking of Sun Belt members, with league newcomer Florida Atlantic getting the nod for the top class. North Texas was third. Soccer Buzz called the balloting for the top class a "three-way dead heat" between Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee and North Texas.

Middle Tennessee was rated 23rd in the Central Region, which is comprised of 68 teams and is the largest of the six regions across the country. The Blue Raiders were rated above such teams as Oklahoma, Houston, Texas, Tulsa, and SMU of the 30 teams rated in the Central Region.

"The Central Region is a very tough region and it's also the largest region," Rhoden said. "As far as rankings go, it's quite an honor to be recognized by a group such as Soccer Buzz in terms of the efforts we have put into our recruiting. While it's a nice honor, the biggest honor for me is these new players coming in and making a significant and positive difference in our program. The beautiful thing is we have them for four years. If they come in and make a positive difference for us then I think they will have validated that ranking."

While Rhoden is excited about the athletic accomplishments collected by his blue chippers, the coach is more impressed with their academic achievements.

"Soccer Buzz is pretty much basing the rankings on the credentials and athletic performances of the signees, but the great thing about this class is it probably is the strongest we have ever had academically," Rhoden said. "Some are class presidents and several were valedictorians of their class so, not only are we getting some very talented players athletically, but we also have recruited some players who will help us maintain our high academic standards.

"It speaks volumes of the work that everyone has done - our administration, the academic enhancement center, professors, everyone involved, because when the players and their parents visit our campus the fact of the matter is our University sells itself. There are so many positive things about our school that allow us to attract quality student-athletes. Parents and players recognize we have some great facilities and some of the absolutely best academic opportunities, and that means a lot."

Soccer Buzz Rankings
Sun Belt Conference
1 Florida Atlantic
2 Middle Tennessee
3 North Texas
4 Western Kentucky
5 Denver
6 Louisiana-Monroe
7 South Alabama
8 Arkansas-Little Rock
9 Arkansas State
10 Louisiana-Lafayette
11 Troy
N/A Florida International

Central Region
2 Texas A&M
3 Iowa State
4 Oklahoma State
5 Missouri
6 Kansas
7 Texas Christian
8 Texas Tech
9 Tennessee
10 Baylor
11 Creighton
12 Arkansas
13 Rice
14 St. Louis
15 Nebraska
16 Mississippi
17 Colorado College
18 Memphis
19 Mississippi State
20 Texas-El Paso
21 Texas-San Antonio
22 Colorado
23 Middle Tennessee
24 Stephen F. Austin
25 Oklahoma
26 North Texas
27 Houston
28 Texas
29 Tulsa
30 SMU

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