On Wednesday, February 1, M-A celebrated National Signing Day. On this day, senior student-athletes across the country officially sign contracts binding them to play their respective sport at their school of choice. This year’s participants included Olivia Athens, Jordan Mims, Kirby Knapp, Jacqueline DiSanto, Mia Paulsen, Faith Dunn, Kate Denend, Grace Tully, Casey Morris, and Naomi Lee.

Olivia Athens shows her UCLA pride. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Athens will be playing soccer at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) come this fall. She plays on the Under-18 U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team and competes all over the world, most recently in England and Spain. Before transferring to M-A her junior year, she was named First Team All-League as a freshman and WBAL Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore at Sacred Heart Preparatory.

As for her future at UCLA, Athens is excited to spend her next four years in a “new, fun city” where she can“pursue [her] education and soccer career.” While she was originally committed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she switched over to UCLA in August of 2016. Athens looks forwards to “playing soccer for such an amazing school and hopefully win[ning] a national championship.

Jordan Mims signs a Letter of Intent. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Mims is taking his widely-recognized talents to play football at Fresno State next year. Mims powered the M-A football team to back-to-back Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) titles, a Central Coast Section (CCS) Open D1 Championship, a NorCal 3-AA Championship, and a State Championship appearance. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry, rushed for 2,939 yards in his senior season, and scored 31 touchdowns his senior season alone. Mims is a 3-year varsity starter and rushed for over 4,000 yards in his career. He was named Cal-Hi Sports All-State running back, MaxPreps All-NorCal running back, Mercury News Bay Area Offensive Player of the Year, Prep2Prep CCS Senior of the Year, All-Metro 1st Team Utility, and PAL-Bay 1st Team running back.

Looking back on his high school career, Mims noted the Bears’ winning game streak this past season as his favorite memory. He was recruited back in December, and when Mims found out he “was really excited and fired up to take a visit” down to Fresno. Mims looks forward to “winning a bowl game and hopefully going to the NFL draft” after graduating from Fresno State.

Kirby Knapp sports a Washington University hoodie. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Knapp is headed to Washington University to play volleyball for the next four years. Knapp is a four-year starting setter for the M-A varsity team and served as co-captain the past two years. She has guided the Bears to three PAL titles, two CCS titles, two Northern California Championship titles, and two State Runner-Up titles. The San Mateo Daily Journal named her Volleyball Player of the Year in 2015 and she was on that year’s All-State and All-American Teams. In 2016, Knapp made the pre-season All-American Team. Knapp holds the school record for the most assists in a season (1120) and was CCS’s assist leader in 2013.

Knapp has been playing volleyball at a highly competitive level for eight years and is eager to continue playing volleyball down in Saint Louis. Knapp found out last year that “WashU was interested in [her] and… [she] was really excited because it was one of [her] top schools and [she] loved the campus.” She hopes to play in the NCAA championships and enjoy time with those she anticipates will be “great teammates.”

Jacqueline DiSanto displays her intent to attend the University of Michigan. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

DiSanto will be playing volleyball at the University of Michigan next year. A three-year varsity athlete, DiSanto supported the team with her talents as both a defensive specialist and an outside hitter. This past season DiSanto was named PAL Co-MVP after leading the Bears to an impressive 14-0 league title. DiSanto led the team in kills with an average of 3.7 per set and served 70 aces with an impressive serving percentage of 96.6. As a defensive specialist, DiSanto totaled more than 400 perfect digs. Her favorite moment in her high school career was when she played at Pitman High School last year and “pretty much their whole town and school were there watching which made it even more fun.” She especially enjoyed “beating the home team” and advancing to the Northern California finals.

DiSanto began playing club volleyball eight years ago and was a proficient beach player. DiSanto originally wanted to play beach in college but ended up changing her mind and “was lucky to have been talking to Michigan for indoor.” She noted her family was ecstatic since her father is a Michigan alumnus. She is “mostly excited to compete in the Big 10 and travel to all the Big 10 schools” as well as experience Michigan football games.

Mia Paulsen signs her letter. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Paulsen will be making the long three-mile trek to Stanford University next year to continue her diving career. Paulsen is a nationally ranked junior diver and two-time high school All-American. She has been a member of the Stanford Diving Club’s team where she is a seven-time top-ten finisher at Junior Nationals. At Nationals last year, Paulsen was a semi-finalist in both the one-meter and platform diving events. One of her best moments of her career was when she hit “two of [her] hardest ten-meter dives” at Nationals this past summer. Paulsen placed second and third place at the CCS Championships and has represented M-A as a finalist in the California state meet twice.

Paulsen displays an immense passion for diving and describes the reward after “completing a dive you’re unsure about” as a great “relief.” She began talking to the Stanford coach in the spring of her junior year, and Paulsen found out she “got a recruiting trip at the end of the summer.” There was an unbelievable amount of competition for a spot on the team, but she feels “grateful that [she] was chosen to be one of those people.” At Stanford, Paulsen looks forward to pushing herself “academically and physically” and she knows Stanford is the place where she can do both.

Faith Dunn displays her UCLA pride while signing her letter. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Dunn will be heading down to UCLA to pursue her goal to swim at a collegiate level. Dunn swam her way through four years as a varsity athlete on M-A’s swimming team. As a sophomore, Dunn earned MVP honors and is both a CCS and State qualifier.

Her favorite part about swimming is “finishing a race and seeing [a new] personal record” with her team shouting behind her lane. It is no secret that “all the gruelingly intense training (sweat, tears and sometimes blood)” may be a deterrent for some entering the sport, but for Dunn, all it does is push her to succeed. Dunn found out this past summer that UCLA was interested in her and she described this moment as “a dream come true.” As for what she is most looking forward to in the next four years, Dunn remarked, “Well, UCLA is ranked number one for campus food!”

Kate Denend is excited to swim at Pomona College. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Denend is also a swimmer and she will be joining Pomona’s class of 2021. Denend specializes in sprint freestyle and was selected for the PAL’s All-League First Team for the past three years. She was a part of the record-breaking 200 free relay and 400 free relay, that went to States. Denend earned All-American titles as well.

The best part about her high school career was when she went to CCS and States last year. All her “teammates swam so well and [she] got some of [her] best times because of their excitement and support” and they really “showed how swimming is a team sport.” Denend found out Pomona was recruiting her “halfway through [her] junior year high school season” and was thrilled because she “loved Pomona’s academics and opportunities.” Once she arrives at Pomona, Denend can’t wait to “grow as an athlete and … a soon-to-be adult.”

Grace Tully beams as she signs her letter. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Tully is a star lacrosse player who will be attending Denison College in the fall. Tully is a low attacker and currently plays for NorCal Rize’s Elite Black Team as well as for the NorCal 1 National Team. Tully began her lacrosse career at M-A by joining the varsity team freshman year and grew to receive both the title of MVP at M-A as well as MVP All-League Attack Player of the Year during her junior year. She currently sits at #10 in the state for overall scored points (99) and is #13 in the state for total number of goals (76).

Tully’s favorite moment so far was beating Menlo last year for the first time since 2007, since “it was something [she’d] been working towards since freshman year” and was “a special moment” to share with her teammates. Tully had been talking to the Denison coach since her sophomore year but had never considered going because her brother had just committed there for lacrosse. However, on her official visit there in October she “fell in love with the school” and was positive she wanted to commit, but was “still hesitant… because of [her brother] Will.” After an unexpected but affirming phone call from her brother, who was in Africa all of last fall, Tully called the coach and committed, saying “it was the best feeling in the world to know that something I’d been working towards since freshman year had officially happened.” Tully also confirmed her excitement to attend Denison next fall, stating that “there’s super good ice cream in Ohio!”

Casey Morris eagerly signs his commitment to play tennis at Claremont McKenna. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Morris is staying in California and will be playing tennis at Claremont McKenna after graduating. Morris is ranked #11 in California and is a top 200 player in the country. He has racked in a PAL and CCS record of 74 wins to 3 losses and has been a First Team All-League player since freshman year.

His favorite moment in his career so far was playing on the NorCal Zonals team, where he “played other teams from across the country and ended up taking second place in the Zonals tournament,” emphasizing the importance of having “a team behind [him]” that added “energy and a social aspect to the sport.” Morris developed an interest in Claremont McKenna during a showcase his junior year. Around June of last year, Morris became “fairly confident in [his] relationship with the coaches” and hoped he would be one of the three players they would support through the admissions process. He looks forward to being part of a team since he stated that “tennis can be lonely sometimes, traveling around the country by yourself to compete in tournaments in which you may only know a few players.”

Naomi Lee gleams while representing her future school, Brown. Credit: Trevor Thiele-Sardina / M-A Chronicle.

Naomi Lee is heading to the East Coast to play golf at Brown University. A talented golfer from a young age, Naomi has a love for the sport of golf which has propelled her to find great success during her four years at M-A. Lee is a four-year varsity player and as a junior led the team to a PAL Co-Championship. As a senior, Lee competed in the PAL Individual Championships.

Lee looks forward to the “experience of being an Ivy athlete” and looks back at her career thus far fondly. Her proudest moment occurred when Lee was only 12 years old and shot two hole-in-ones in the same round. “According to Golf Digest, that’s one in sixty-seven millions odds!” stated Lee. Lee decided to attend Brown last August after going through a rigorous recruitment process beginning freshman year.

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