CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi women's soccer team has added a trio of transfers to its incoming class for the 2013 season, head coach Shanna Caldwell announced today. Rachel Keeley (Aberdeen, Md./Harford CC), Jenny Hwang (Manchester, Conn./Univ. of Bridgeport) and Aulona Velaj (Stamford, Conn./University of Bridgeport) will join Islanders Soccer in its debut campaign this fall.
"Rachel, Jenny and Aulona are three players who aren't just skilled, but have experience at the college level," Caldwell said. "With a predominantly younger squad coming in, they will bring leadership to the program both on and off the field. Additionally, being East Coast players, they possess a more physical style of play as well as a 'take no prisoners' attitude."
Keeley is a 5-foot-5 defender who helped Harford to Maryland JUCO titles in both 2011 and 2012. In her freshman campaign, she scored three goals with eight assists from her left back position, including a tally against Scottsdale in the national tournament. She followed that up with three goals and three assists as a sophomore while playing center back, and was a first team all-conference selection for her efforts defensively. She played for Matt Roberts at Aberdeen High School in addition to playing club ball for Greg Paynter with Baltimore Bays Chelsea. She will have two years of eligibility remaining for the Islanders.
"Rachel is a very tough player with a fierce determination and competitiveness," Caldwell said. "She is not afraid to get stuck in on a tackle, and she should serve as a good leader both on and off the field."
Hwang missed the 2012 season due to injury, and will have three years of eligibility remaining when she comes to the Island University. As a freshman, the midfielder played in 17 games, posting a goal and two assists in helping Bridgeport to an undefeated 16-0-2 season. She also picked up rookie of the week honors in her first week for the Purple Knights. She played four years in high school for Jon Cohn at Manchester High School with Islanders assistant coach Lauren Molinaro serving as an assistant on the staff for two of those years. Additionally, she represented Region I for the Olympic Development Program in 2007 for the international tournament.
"Jenny is a natural leader with a lot of charisma, and should help foster a positive, enthusiastic team culture," Caldwell said. "She's a hardworking player with experience at the college level, and we're excited to have her."
Velaj will join the Islanders after two years as Hwang's teammate at Bridgeport. The midfielder played in 13 games for the Purple Knights in 2012, posting a goal and an assist on the season. She appeared 11 times in 2011, scoring a goal, and was a member of the Dean's List her first year on campus. Velaj played for Westhill High School under Dave Flower in addition to a club career for Connecticut FC, where she was the MVP in 2007, 2008 and 2009. She was born in Kosovo, and was invited to play for the Albanian National Team in 2012 and 2013.
"Another hardworking player from the East Coast, Aulona is talented in 1-v-1 situations," Caldwell said. "Isolated on the outside, she has the potential to be very dangerous, and that will make her an asset offensively."
The trio will join the 19 players who have already signed on to join the 2013 class, including 18 February signees and freshman Meghan Cordero, who enrolled at the Island University prior to the 2013 spring semester. For all the latest on Islanders Soccer, be sure to follow the team on Twitter (@IslandersSoccer) and Facebook (Islanders Soccer).