There was a time when Mariah Jeffrey figured her senior season at East Union would be her last as a soccer player.
“I’ve always worked hard in school and just wanted to focus on that (in college),” she said. “Then, I don’t know, I just didn’t want to leave soccer quite yet.”
Dixie State head coach Kacey Bingham is likely glad she hasn’t hung the cleats up. She and the Trailblazers officially landed the 5-foot-8 defender Friday when Jeffrey signed her National Letter of Intent at the East Union library.
“I kind of decided late, after my junior year, that I wanted to play (in college), so I made a last-effort to continue playing and it all worked out,” Jeffrey said.
After helping the Lancers claim a second straight Sac-Joaquin Section championship, Jeffrey showcased her skills in the Dixie State’s Elite Individual Camp in St. George, Utah last summer. She was already familiar with the surroundings, as one of her older brothers, Jordan, played on the men’s team.
“I really love St. George,” Jeffrey said. “It’s a great college town and there is a ton of stuff to do there.
“About a week after their ID camp, the coach told me she wanted me and I was pumped,” Jeffrey said.
I just went to their ID camp and a week later coach told me she wanted me. I was pumped. She told me she liked my speed and that I was strong and aggressive.”
East Union coach Victor Polanco said Jeffrey’s combination of size, speed and ball skills allow her to be effective at any position. She played forward as a freshman on Polanco’s undefeated frosh-soph team in 2013.
“They are getting a great defender,” Polanco said. “She’s good everywhere, on the right, the left, the back — wherever they need her, she’s going to be helping them. She knows every position but her best is in the back as a central defender.”
East Union’s 2013 frosh-soph team and 2014-16 varsity squads went a combined 72-7-4 with Jeffrey. Last year, the Lancers allowed just five goals and finished 20-0 in winning the SJS Division III title. Jeffrey was named the Manteca Bulletin’s All-Area Defender of the Year. East Union also won the Division IV crown the previous season, going 19-0-1.
Dixie State placed fifth with a 9-4 record in the WestPac Conference last fall and was 11-6 overall, but it appears to be a program on the rise under its third-year head coach. In just her second season, the Trailblazers enjoyed their first 10-win season (10-7-1) since 2010.
“I wanted to be on a team that was going to push me and help me be better,” Jeffrey said. “I didn’t want to be on one that wasn’t doing well. The coach is really good and I know she’s worked hard to build the team up. I think it will be good.”