Jalissa Freeman is anxious to start taking pre-med classes at UCLA and working out with the Bruins' soccer team, one of the best in the nation.
So, instead of spending her senior year at Enochs High, she will graduate a year early and start at UCLA in August.
"I will be the youngest player on the team, but I know it will be a good experience because there will be talent all around me," Freeman said. "It's like I will have 1-plus older sisters who will provide leadership and examples based on their experience."
Freeman, who signed a letter of intent Wednesday committing to UCLA, is one of 10 Stanislaus District student-athletes who took advantage of the national signing day to commit to a college.
While the others will be familiar to high school sports fans, Freeman's a new name.
Though she played basketball at Enochs last year, tearing her ACL in her final regular-season game, she doesn't play soccer for the Eagles.
She was recruited based on her play with the Pleasanton Rage, a travel team that plays throughout the country, and is one of 11 club players expected to sign with colleges.
"My planned major is pre-med and I would like to eventually become an orthopedic surgeon," said Freeman, one of the top strikers on the West Coast according to recruiting analysts. "UCLA has a great medical program. If I stay focused, UCLA will definitely get me to what I want to be."
The full-ride scholarship is worth about $27,00 a year, according to UCLA. Freeman says the Bruins plan to use her at striker as a freshman.
The Bruins were 21-3-1 last season, losing to Stanford in overtime in the NCAA semifinals in December. UCLA was the tournament's top seed.
"I believe my versatility and speed attracted UCLA," Freeman said. "I can play anywhere a coach needs me."
Freeman's happy that playing soccer remains an option.
"A memory I'll always have is (tearing) my ACL playing basketball," Freeman said. "I thought it was the end of my career and that I would never be able to play soccer again.
"The injury made me realize something you love can be taken away from you at any moment, so when you get the chance, play to your fullest potential and never give up."
- Ceres goalie Kyle Cerny signed with Stanislaus State after leading the Bulldogs to a Sac-Joaquin Section crown.
"Advice I give to younger student-athletes is to stay on top of your school work," said Cerny, who plans to major in history or social science. "I have seen many great players miss (high school) sports because they were academically ineligible. It doesn't matter if you are a stellar athlete, not if you don't have the grades to back up your talent. You can't play soccer forever."
- Davis' Lance Castaneda, an all-district defensive back last fall, signed with Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. He was recruited primarily as a receiver, and is expected to redshirt as a freshman so he can gain strength and adjust to the Cal Poly's heavy academic load.
"Their pride in academics and getting players and students ready for the real world impressed me," said Castaneda, whose package is valued at $15,000 to $18,000 a year.
Castaneda had an early-season injury and was hidden in an offense that rarely passed, but his family used an aggressive marketing campaign to get his name out to schools.
"My dad would send recruiting packets that included my transcripts, statistics, biography, and a highlight video," Castaneda said. "(Former coach) Brad Goudeau would help us put it together and send it to different colleges."
- Modesto Christian's Isaiah Burse, The Bee's Player of the Year last fall, signed with Fresno State. A quarterback-linebacker at MC, he will likely be moved to slot receiver.
Burse raised his stock during the season by leading MC to the CIF Small School championship. He drew the interest of smaller schools as a quarterback, but Burse said he prefers going to receiver.
- Central Catholic's Matthew Galas signed with the University of Nevada. He will stay at center, but could redshirt next season after breaking his leg in December. His brother Dominic plays at Cal.
"Nevada plays Cal the next three years," said Galas, who had offers from Cal Poly and San Jose State. "It would be fun to be on the same field again."
Galas expects to major in business and his package is valued at $30,000 annually.
- Cody Wichman, a 6-foot-5 and 275-pound offensive lineman and tight end, will follow in the footsteps of Mariposa grad Logan Mankins and continue his career at Fresno State.
His numbers last fall were modest -- 11 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown --but Fresno State coach Pat Hill believes Wichman is another below-the-radar recruit who could pay off in a few years. For now, Wichman is enjoying a standout season with the Grizzlies' basketball team.
"Cody is a big man and a very good athlete," Hill said. "He's got great growth potential and I'm anxious to get him in our program and watch him grow and develop."
- A number of Division I schools hoped to attract Manteca receiver Reggie Bell as a walk-on, but he signed with the University of San Diego. Jim Harbaugh was coaching the Toreros before moving to Stanford a few years ago.
"I'm going to try and head down in early or mid-June to get the feel of the area so I'm not overwhelmed by the city, football and classes when September rolls around," said Bell, one of the district's top receivers. "The plan is to compete for playing time at receiver and possibly, if I show the poise as a freshman, then returning punts (might be an option) as well my first year."
The package from San Diego is worth $38,000 a year.
- Merced has had plenty of talent in recent years, but academic issues have prevented many of them from going to four-year colleges. Not a problem for Marques Barron, who has signed with UC Davis.
"(My major will be) exercise biology and the school is at the top academically," said Barron, who also was looking at Cal Poly, another academically demanding school.
Barron also had advice for aspiring student-athletes who want to follow his path.
"Don't forget that having good academic success helps if sports fail," he said. "They also (help) you get to college."
Other athletes heading to college include Ceres quarterback Josh Edwards (University of Mary in North Dakota) and Enochs' Mariah Wilkins, who will run cross country and track at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.