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Villanova women signing class includes four local standouts



Four of the top local club and high school players are part of the seven-player 2024 signing class for head coach Samar Azem and Villanova women’s soccer.

Real Jersey FC teammates Morgan Kotch (Pennington School) and Sophia Miller (Paul VI), Penn Fusion midfielder Madison Shumate (Downingtown East) and Sporting Delaware forward Dez Zapata (Smyrna HS) are part of a class that includes World Class FC midfielder Amalia Cardo, South Shore Select goalkeeper Natalie Mutschler and Charlotte Soccer Academy defender Meredith Palmer.

Amalia Cardo | Midfield | New Rochelle, N.Y. | World Class FC
Cardo has been a dual-sport athlete at Albertus Magnus High School playing varsity soccer and basketball. She has also played at the club level with World Class FC.

Azem on Cardo: “Amalia is a student of the game. She values the beauty of the game, understands space, and loves to break teams down with the ball at her feet. She has a high commitment to standards and excellence and is a player and person I’m more than thrilled to welcome to the program.”

Morgan Kotch | Forward | Yardville, N.J. | Real Jersey FC
Kotch has been a decorated soccer player at The Pennington School, earning various honors from the local, state, regional and national levels. She holds the school record with both 40 goals in a single season and 108 in her career. She was tabbed an All-Prep and All-American Team player twice and added All-State and Top 20 Central Region honors in her sophomore season. As a junior, she was named the Prep Player of the Year and Area Player of the Year. She played at the club level with Real Jersey FC and was a member of the Capelli Sport USA Team. She was a dual-sport athlete in high school, also playing varsity basketball. Academically, she earned High Honors in a semester four times and was a two-time member of the Dean’s List.

Azem on Kotch: “Morgan is an instinctive and natural goal scorer.  She has the arsenal to create goals for herself and others and when she doesn’t have the ball will relentlessly press back lines.  She will be a menace for defenders in the league to handle.”

Sophia Miller | Defender | Mount Laurel, N.J. | Real Jersey FC
Miller is a three-time First Team All-Conference center back at Paul VI High School who also earned 2022 Third Team All-State status and was tabbed the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year. She played with Real JFC for eight years with USYS Best XI honors in 2021 and 2022. She also earned two varsity letters in high school in lacrosse. She was a member of the National Honor Society as a junior and senior and was a member of the Spanish Honor Society as a junior. She earned three years of First Honors at her high school, as well.

Azem on Miller: “Sophia is a versatile defender with a strong left foot.  Her speed and quickness make her hard to beat defensively. She’s competitive and has the versatility to play across our back line, adding to a competitive defensive unit.”

Natalie Mutschler | Goalkeeper | Hanover, Mass. | South Shore Select
Mutschler had a successful high school soccer career, playing with a squad that won the Massachusetts girls Soccer D3 State Championship in 2022. Her senior season brought an undefeated regular season for the group and posted a .29 goals against average in net individually. She played with South Shore Select for nine years, earning Girls Academy National Runner-Up status in 2022. She also letters in Track and Field, winning the Outdoor Track and Field D5 High Jump State title in 2023. The 2023 Hanover High School Legacy Award Recipient holds 10 school records in both indoor and outdoor track and field.
Azem on Mutschler: “Natalie is powerful and explosive athlete with a tremendous presence in goal.  She’s extremely strong and brave off her line, takes control of her box, and has a tremendous range in her distribution.”

Meredith Palmer | Defender | Waxhaw, N.C. | Charlotte Soccer Academy
Palmer earned All-Conference honors as a defender at Cuthbertson High School the last three years while adding All-Region status the last two and All-State as a senior. She has been a member of the Charlotte Soccer Academy since the junior academy. Off the pitch, she was also a decorated member of the varsity track and field team all four years, landing All-Region and All-Conference honors each year with All-State laurels as a sophomore and junior. She is a part of the school’s 4×400 Relay indoor and outdoor record holder. She has also been a two-year member of the National Honor Society.

Azem on Palmer: “Meredith is smart, athletic, and strong in the air. She is hard to beat in 1v1 moments and can balance the toughness and composed decision making aspects of a good center back, making her someone forwards will struggle to beat in the BIG EAST.”

Madison Shumate | Forward | Downingtown, Pa. | Penn Fusion
Shumate has been a four-year varsity starter for Downingtown East as a forward and midfielder. She holds the program’s record for all-time leading scorer and assists with 62 goals, 33 assists and 157 points. She capped her career with All-American honors after earning All-State laurels as a junior. She was a three-time All-Area selection and was First Team All-Southeastern PA and ChesMont MVP as a junior. At the club level, she has been lauded with countless accolades with Penn Fusion, including three ECNL North Atlantic selections. She played in the 2022 ECNL National Selection Game, also making the Sweet Sixteen that season. She has been a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Student-Athlete Leadership Committee and has been a Student Life Committee Leader.

Azem on Shumate: “Madison is a forward who will do as much work to create in the final third as she will to defend in the final third and will be good at both.  She is fast, dangerous, and relentless.”

Dez Zapata | Forward | Dover, De. | Sporting Delaware
Zapata won a varsity letter in soccer as a forward for Smyrna High School. In 2021, she set the school’s single season scoring record with 33 goals as a freshman before breaking the scoring record in 2023 with 80 goals. She was first team All-State, All-Conference and part of the Top Eleven in the state from 2021-2023 and tacked on Player of the Year honors in 2023. She captained her club team, Sporting Delaware, in 2021 and was selected for both the US Youth National Team Talent ID Center and the USYSS ODP East Regional ID Camp. Away from soccer, Zapata was on the Indoor Track team as a sprinter and was a defensive specialist on the volleyball team. She finished third in the state of Delaware for the 55m dash in 2022.

Azem on Zapata: “Desiree is an attacking threat with her speed, strength, and her work rate.   She has the ability to face up and run at backlines as well as threaten space in behind well.  She is a player with a lot of upside.”


Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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