Mountain Vista (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) junior Mallory Pugh was today named the 2014-15 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year. The 5-foot-5 attacking midfielder led the Golden Eagles to a 16-3 record and the Class 5A state semifinals. Pugh scored 24 goals and passed for 12 assists this season. She is only the fourth prep player in the 30-year history of the program to win national girls soccer honors as a non-senior.
A member of the U.S. Soccer Under-20 Women’s National Team, Pugh was the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s 2014 Youth National Player of the Year for club soccer. She is rated as the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the Class of 2016 by TopDrawerSoccer.com.
The leading scorer for the U.S. U-17 National Team during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in 2013, Pugh recorded a milestone last summer at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, becoming the youngest American player to participate in the women’s world youth championship since FIFA raised the age limit to 20 in 2006. She played 300 minutes for a U-20 squad that reached the tournament quarterfinals before falling to North Korea on penalty kicks.
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.
We sat down with Pugh, a UCLA commit, to better understand how he outshined 375,000 high school girls soccer players nationwide to win the award.
Q: You rate yourself as a 9.9 on a scale of 10 for ‘weird.’ You’re definitely quirky, but top one percent of weird? Really?
A: To be honest? Yeah. My friends are constantly telling me I’m really weird. But, I think it’s better to be weird than normal.
Q: Your parents were both competitive in track and cross country. When did they stop trying to take you on athletically?
A: My dad (Horace) hasn’t stopped trying. Even though it’s hopeless. I know my mom has accepted that she can’t sprint with me or my sister [recent University of Oregon graduate, Bri, an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention forward for the Ducks in 2014]. But I’m not sure about over distance. She might still have us there.”
Q: Like so many of the great playmakers, you take the pitch with an edge and tenacity—a confidence that sometimes flirts with cockiness. Why do you think you’ve developed that on-the-field persona?
A: I feel like you have to play the game with that grit. You have to bring something special and lead your team and make big plays and make everyone around you better.
Q: Is it really true that you used to watch games broadcast in Spanish-language format—all alone in your room before you were kindergarten age, and on a pink Hello Kitty TV—when they aired on Telemundo?
A: It’s absolutely true. I don’t think I understood it, but I watched. I think because my sister thought soccer was cool.
Q: Last summer at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, you became the youngest American player to participate in the women’s world youth championship since FIFA raised the age limit to 20 in 2006. Is so much success so soon motivating or a little unsettling?
A: I think it’s motivating because it makes me want to get better at everything I do.
Q: OK, so it’s motivating. But in some circles, you’re being called the future face of American women’s soccer. That’s got to be daunting, no?
A: There’s pressure there when you hear that, but that’s not my focus. Instead, I think about what motivates me: my love of the game and my love of playing the game.
Q: You broke your left arm three times in a five-year span from ages 8 to 13 and you right femur as a high school freshman. Any other notable hospital visits on your medical chart?
A: Nope, that’s it.
Q: The appeal of UCLA is pretty obvious: Nine NCAA Final Four appearances in program history and a championship in 2013. What, in particular, stood out for you?
A: The whole atmosphere there. The coaches are great. The campus is beautiful. There was just something about it. I fell in love with everything.
Q: Inquiring minds what to know: Do you still need your childhood purple monkey blanket to travel?
A: Yes, I do. It’s still in pretty good shape. It’s a little small though.