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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Soccer

A look at the 2020 signing class for UH soccer


Sophomore midfielder Madison Gear defending an Houston Baptist player in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/ The CougarUH soccer sophomore midfielder Madison Gear defending a Houston Baptist player in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/ The Cougar

After a 6-14 2019 campaign, the UH women’s soccer team heads into the 2020 season looking to improve in a big way and believes its 2020 signing class can play a large role in turning the team around.

“I just feel so confident of all the time we’ve spent to get the program to where it is; that this a breakout season for us,” head coach Diego Bocanegra said in July during a Zoom call with fans.

“It doesn’t matter how many games, who we play against, this is our year when we finally break out.”

While there is still a bit of uncertainty on how a 2020 season will go, the team has been given the green light by the American Athletic Conference to start the campaign and begin workouts.

As the team begins to lay the groundwork on a new year, the new players are getting their first taste of being a part of the UH culture.

Here is an overview of the four new players from the Cougars’ 2020 signing class:

Salma Ghazal – Goalkeeper

The Sugar Land native spent 2019 at Texas Southern and ranked as one of the NCAA’s best in saves per game after the preseason.

Not only does Ghazal have collegiate experience, but she also has it at the highest level of soccer as she was a member of the Jordanian National Team for the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers and 2019 Olympic Trials.

Bocanegra is ecstatic that Ghazal decided to transfer to UH because of the experience she brings to the goalkeeping core.

“She brings some much needed experience to our goalkeeping core,” Bocanegra said. “Her combination of length and quickness makes her an incredible shot stopper.”

Chanel Jimenez – Midfielder

Jiminez spent her high school career at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Riverside, California. The midfielder was a four-year varsity player in high school and also won a championship with Legends FC, a club team in the Southern Californa Developmental Soccer League.

Bocanegra loves the effort Jiminez brings and believes she will be someone who will make her teammates better the more time they spend around her.

“Chanel is someone who will do the hard work in the midfield to win the ball, break up plays and make it difficult for the other team to find a rhythm,” Bocanegra said.

“She will add depth to our midfield group and will make the players around her better by pushing them.”

Caitlyn Matthews – Midfielder

The midfielder joins the Cougars from Flower Mound High School in Flower Mound, Texas. Matthews was the captain of her high school team and led them to a district championship during her senior season.

Matthews was also a member of the Dallas Texans, a U.S. Soccer Development Academy team, and helped them reach the national playoffs during her junior season.

Bocanegra believes Matthews can make an immediate impact because her style of play is a perfect fit with the Cougars style.

“Caitlyn is a multidimensional attacker who has the ability to make an immediate impact,” he said. “Her style of play fits perfectly within our team structure and I think she will make a quick transition to this level.”

Taiya Mitchell – Defender

The Houston native joins the Cougars from J. Frank Dobie High School where she was a four-year letterwinner. Mitchell started every game of her high school career and had been named the District Defensive MVP in back-to-back years.

Mitchell helped lead her high school team to three playoff qualifiers and also led her club team to finish second in state qualifiers.

Having one of the top players in Houston choose to join the Cougars is something Bocanegra considers a major win for the program.

“Anytime we can keep top Houston area talent at home, we consider it a victory,” Bocanegra said. “Once she gets accustomed to our speed of play, her potential is off the charts.”

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