Though he normally doesn’t set much store in recruiting class rankings, Clemson women’s soccer coach Eddie Radwanski deems it an unqualified positive that his latest haul of freshmen has been rated amongst the nation’s best, and that two of his recruits were included on the Preseason Best XI Freshman Team as determined by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
“I’ve always said for years that I’ve never really looked at that stuff,” said Radwanski, who’s beginning his third season at Clemson. “But it’s nice that there’s some recognition out there. And I think that’s good for Clemson. We needed that considering where we were coming from in reestablishing the program, and rebuilding things. Little positives like that are good. They’re even good for us coaches.
“And obviously we’re excited about this incoming class. It’s the class I worked on when I first got the job, so I’ve been waiting for two seasons for this group to arrive. I think the talents and attributes that they bring, along with the good work that our returners did last spring, sets us up and puts us in a much better position than we’ve been in as we go forward. So there’s a lot of optimism for the season ahead, in that regard.”
The cornerstone additions in a class that’s 11-strong are Kailen Sheridan, a goalkeeper from Whitby, Ontario, and Claire Wagner, a defender from Cary, NC. Both were recognized as among the best eleven freshmen nationally by TopDrawerSoccer, and Clemson was distinguished as the only school to have two players named to that team.
Sheridan and Wagner share an abundance of international soccer experience: Sheridan with the Canadian National Team that won the silver medal at the CONCACAF U-17 World Cup Qualifiers in Guatemala, and which later advanced to the quarterfinals of the Women’s U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan; and Wagner as a member of the U.S. U-17 National Team that also competed at the World Cup in Azerbaijan.
Sheridan is vying for a spot on Canada’s U-20 National Team that will compete for the World Cup a year from now, while Wagner was a National Team Camp selection in 2011, and also played for a club team (CASL Chelsea Ladies 94) that in 2011 and 2012 won consecutive National Championships.
Radwanski said that being able to attract players of that quality couldn’t help but have a favorable domino effect.
“When we had Kailen and Claire originally commit to us, I think that really opened up a lot of doors,” he confirmed. “Other players were like, ‘Well, wait, they’re going there!’ We gained a lot of credibility, and it’s helped us even more so in our recruiting for the future, to know that we have players like that, and a class like this. They sense and see that good things are happing here at Clemson.
“I’m proud of the class that’s come in. It’s a talented group of players and it was a nice honor for Claire and Kailen to get recognized to that first-eleven team for freshman across the country. Hopefully, that speaks volumes for what Clemson is doing, and the direction that we’re heading. You can’t build Rome overnight. It takes time. But this group is an important component to the foundation.”
While Sheridan and Wagner undeniably have the pedigrees and playing backgrounds, Radwanski is just as enthused about his nine other newcomers.
“For the first time since I’ve been here, there’s competition at every spot,” said Radwanski. “And that’s great, because that’s depth. To have that, particularly in the conference that we compete in, is critical. I think that’s one of the best ways to get better, to have that form of peer-pressure. So we’re fortunate at the moment to be in that position.”
Goalkeeping is a good example, as Sheridan will compete with veterans Hunter Rittgers and Morgan Hert.
“We feel good about our goalkeeping situation,” said Radwanski. “Kailen is a unique talent, and has upgraded the training level. She can snatch balls out of the air, she can immediately start the attack, and her kicking game is very good. She’s somebody who can get the ball down the field in an instant, and has come in with a vast amount of international experience. That’s going to be a real positive to our team.
“At the end, one class doesn’t solve it all, but it certainly is a very big building-block. They’re still first-year players, and they still have some things to learn, but I feel like this year that we’re going to see progress in a lot of different areas, hopefully tangibly and intangibly.”