Mallory was surprised in class this morning by US Women's National Team legend Brandi Chastain who presented Mal with the award.
The surprise in the classroom was followed by a press conference in the school's theater in front of family, teammates, and students.
Being that Mountain Vista HS is 6 minutes from my house (14 by road bike on a good day), I was fortunate to attend the ceremony in the theater (H/T to the Gatorade PoY PR Staff!) and to talk with Mal and her high school coach afterward. Sometimes exile works out.
I asked Mallory, that even with senior year still ahead, if she is already looking forward to attending U.C.L.A. And even though it's still a long way until NLI Day next February, it sounds like her commitment is rock solid.
I think about it [U.C.L.A.] every single day. I can't wait to get out there.
I know senior year for everyone is just a great way to wrap up high school and get ready for the next chapter of your life. I'm really excited to just play soccer and be with my friends and I can't wait to get to Westwood.
U.C.L.A. Soccer fans can't wait either, but I'll offer one word of wisdom from someone older: U.C.L.A will be waiting. Don't hurry and enjoy the ride in the meantime. Besides, you can always win the award again next year, too).
Pugh's head coach at Vista, Theresa Echtermeyer, reiterated that despite Mal's incredible talent, she's above all a great teammate.
Mal is just a great all around kid. Great teammate. Great friend. And then she happens to be gifted and blessed with incredible athleticism, speed, agility. It's funny though. You don't look at her as the Gatorade National Player of the Year. She's part of an amazing group of girls, an amazing team, and that's how she wants it too. She doesn't want it to be "I'm more special than everybody else". Mal's never been that way.
I asked Coach Echtermeyer if there was anyone on the current Women's National team that Mal's game compares to, but the coach feels that Mal is really her own player on the field.
I think Mal has a very unique skill set that I'm not sure I've ever seen. It's very unique. She does things with the ball, with her speed thought, her speed of play. She reads the game so well. In that respect she's way mature beyond her years. I think she's a combination of a lot of players.
I didn't even have to ask about playing soccer at U.C.L.A., but Coach Echtermeyer continued...
I know Mallory is so excited to be at UCLA. Loves the coaching staff, they're tremendous people. She's just over the moon for that, too. Again, that's part of being a normal kid. You go to high school, you go to college, you have those experiences. That's Mal. She's this incredibly crazy gifted soccer player. But at the end of the day, she's a great teammate, a great friend, a great leader in school. Just a pretty special kid.
Pugh owns career totals of 47 goals and 23 assists in three high school seasons, and Mountain Vista has amassed a 32-0 record with her in the lineup. She helped her squad to a Class 5A state title as a sophomore and is a sure-fire three-time All-State selection. Pugh led her group-winning Real Colorado U-16 club team in goals and assists in qualifying for the 2014 Elite Clubs National League Champions League finals. She was unable to participate in that tournament due to U-20 National Team commitments.
A key player on the U.S. Under-17 Women's National Team in 2013 and 2014, she was the leading scorer at the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Championship with five goals and three assists ... Following the end of the U-17 cycle in early 2014, she got a call-up to the U-20s in February and immediately established herself as an impact player as the youngest player on the U-20 women's World Cup Team ... In her first camp with the U-20s, she scored two goals and added an assist in two games vs. China PR ... Finished her U-17 career with 15 international goals in 12 caps ... Scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory against Japan in her final U-17 international match in February of 2014
Besides the impressive stuff on the field, Mallory is just as impressive off the field.
Pugh has maintained a 3.68 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally as part of multiple community-service initiatives to benefit pediatric care at Children's Hospital Colorado. Pugh has also donated her time to the Panther Pantry, which serves needy families in Douglas County, as well as the Tennyson Center for Children, a home for abused youth. In addition, she has worked with the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program serving young athletes with disabilities.
It only takes 15 seconds to know if they're a Bruin, right?
Congratulations, Mallory Pugh! The U.C.L.A. family is looking forward to you being a Bruin!
The Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year Trophy photo: gbruin
And your 2014-15 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year. photo: gbruin