PISCATAWAY, NJ – Four high school standouts have signed national letters of intent to join the Rutgers women’s soccer team for the 2005 season, head coach Glenn Crooks has announced.
The group consists of Jessica Bendzlowicz (Holland, PA), Kristen Edmonds (Metuchen, NJ) Alicia Hall (Port Republic, NJ) and Nina Montero (Vineland, NJ).
“This is a great class that provides quality depth in all areas of the field,” said Crooks. “All the players come from great families who understand the commitment and sacrifice it takes to be successful at the highest level. This is a class that will help us take another step forward as a program. I am also grateful to our current players and our coaching staff, who showed our recruits how special it is to be associated with Rutgers University.”
Bendzlowicz, a 5-8 midfielder/defender, competed at Council Rock South High School. As a senior, Bendzlowicz collected 21 points (6 g, 9 a) and helped lead her team to a 24-0-2 record, a state title and a national ranking of third. She was named to the Bucks County Courier Times Golden Teams First Team and the All-League First Team. In 2003, she had 26 points (9 g, 8 a) and was named to the All-League Second Team as Council Rock South posted an 18-1 record. As a sophomore, she helped lead her team to a 21-1-2 mark and the PIAA state co-championship. Bendzlowicz played for the Pennsylvania Strikers, a top-10 club team nationally. The Strikers won two state indoor titles (2000, 2003), were the Region 1 finalists in 2003 and semifinalists in 2001 and 2002, and won the WAGS Cup championship in 2000. The Strikers also won five Eastern Pennsylvania state crowns (1999-2003). Bendzlowicz played for the 2004 Olympic Development Program’s (ODP) Region 1 Team in 2004, and was in the regional pool in 2002 and 2003. She played for the same high school and club teams as current Scarlet Knight Amanda Allessio (Langhorne, PA).
“Jessica has a great background in the game and has been effective at the highest level in the back and midfield,” stated Crooks. “I love the way she goes forward, and she can help keep an opponent honest with her ability to score outside of the box. Jess is probably the most versatile player in our class. She plays with an outstanding club team and will be well prepared for her freshman year in college.”
Edmonds, a 5-4 midfielder/forward, competed at nearby Metuchen High School. As a senior, she scored 30 goals and notched nine assists, earning a spot on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Region Team, the New Jersey Girls Soccer Coaches Association (NJGSCA) Top 20 All-State Team and State Sectional All-Central Team, the Star Ledger Group I All-State Team and the Home News Tribune and Star Ledger All-County Teams. Edmonds also played in the 2004 NJGSCA All-Star Game after leading her Metuchen team to a 14-4 record and sectional semifinalist finish. As a junior, she tallied 15 goals and nine assists, again earning NSCAA all-region and NJGSCA top 20 all-state honors. In 2002, Edmonds registered 51 points (21 g, 9 a), earning her first of three consecutive all-conference awards. She played club ball with the Jersey Knights X-treme and Rutgers men’s assistant coach Jeff Zaun, advancing to the 2003 semifinals and 2004 final of the State Cup. She also played for Crooks with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) State Team (2003-2004) with fellow signee Montero. A standout on the basketball court, she was a two-time Home News Tribune honorable-mention all-county selection. Edmonds also is the defending Central New Jersey state champion in the long jump and 400 meters, finishing 16th in the long jump at the 2004 Meet of Champions.
“Kristen is an exceptional athlete,” Crooks said. “She is a three-sport star at Metuchen and was just 26 points shy of 1,000 for her career in basketball when she recently broke her collarbone. She has great pace and exhibits the desire to take players on. And, she has great awareness in front of the goal. I am certain that she will add another dimension to our attack with her ability to finish her opportunities.”
Hall, a 5-7 midfielder/defender, attends Holy Spirit High School, where she collected a school-record 78 career goals to go along with 44 assists. As a senior, she registered 21 goals and 10 assists, leading her team to an 18-0-3 record, the CAL league title as well as the CAL national championship. The 2004 Atlantic City Press Female Soccer Player of the Year, she was a second-team Associated Press all-state selection, as well as a second-team all-South Jersey and first-team all-Cape Atlantic pick. In 2003, she tallied 74 points (29 g, 16 a) as Holy Spirit posted a 14-4-1 record, winning the CAL national division title. Hall was named to the All-Cape Atlantic First Team, the All-Parochial First Team and the Atlantic City Press All-First Team as a sophomore, junior and senior. She played her club ball with the Lacey Independent Magic, where she was joined by fellow signee Nina Montero. Lacey won six State Cup titles and the 2003 Region 1 crown, finishing as the regional runner-up in 2004. Hall’s father, Dino, played in the NFL for five seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
“Alicia is one of the top players in the region,” said Crooks. “The Under-19 National Team coach observed her in a friendly last summer, and after about 20 minutes, went over to the coach and asked about Alicia. The next thing you know, she was invited to the U-19 Camp. She has unlimited potential and should provide an immediate impact in the back or midfield.”
Montero, a 5-3 midfielder/forward, competed at Vineland High School. As a senior, she registered eight goals and nine assists, leading her team to a 20-8 record and the Cape Conference title. A two-time first-team all-conference and all-Atlantic City Press selection, she three times was named to the All-Daily Journal First Team, and she finished fourth all time at Vineland in career goals (3) and second in assists (39). A South Jersey Coaches Association (SJCA) All-Star in 2004, Montero also was a member of Vineland’s state championship swimming team, and won the county championship on the track in the 800 meters. A member of the National Honor Society, she played her club ball with the Lacey Independent Magic, where she was joined by fellow signee Alicia Hall. Montero won five State Cup titles and the 2003 Region 1 crown with Lacey, finishing as the regional runner-up in 2004. She played for Crooks with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) State Team in 2004.
“Nina is a great student-athlete,” Crooks stated. “She is number one in her class and is one of the top athletes at her school. In soccer, she is one of the hardest-working players I have coached. Nina has a strong desire to improve every time she steps onto the field and her work ethic is contagious. She is a dangerous attacker who is best in 1 v. 1 situations, but she also is fierce on the defensive side of the ball.”
Rutgers, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Crooks, finished the 2004 season with a 9-10-1 mark overall and a 4-5-1 record in conference play, advancing to the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament. The Scarlet Knights had three players earn all-BIG EAST honors – senior midfielder Carli Lloyd (Delran, NJ), junior back Kim Brandao (Rahway, NJ) and junior midfielder Zoe Avner (Paris, France).