Meghan Newkirk has always been on the sideline to watch her daughter play soccer and offer advice.Jayden Newkirk
has always been quick to take her mom's advice, and rightfully so.
Meghan played soccer at USC. She knows what it takes to succeed and has had a huge impact on her daughter's life. Newkirk's dad, J.J., is an accomplished athlete in his own right, playing baseball at Long Beach State and getting drafted twice in the major leagues.
With such an athletic set of parents, it's no wonder Newkirk is an accomplished athlete herself. She's learned from the best.
"Growing up, I got to play a whole bunch of different sports and have all that diversity and I wasn't tied down to one thing," Newkirk said. "I got to pick my own path as a kid and knowing that they were going to support me no matter what I decided to do was really helpful."
Newkirk chose to pursue soccer and it's been a great decision. The junior is coming off her best season yet at Los Alamitos (Calif.)
. As a center back, Newkirk is solid in the back end but also one of the top scoring defenders in the country. A three-year starter, she tallied a career-high 11 goals and six assists this past season.
"She's a good athlete. She's got good size," Los Alamitos girls soccer coach Pat Rossi said. "I think she's 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9. She got stronger as the years developed, she got faster."
Her hard work and dedication to soccer over the years has propelled her to elite status.
Newkirk is one of 250 high school juniors to earn the distinction Allstate All-American and will be considered for participation in the Allstate All-America Cup on July 31 in Orlando. The contest will be broadcast on ESPNU and participants will be honored later that night at halftime of MLS All-Star Game.
Former Major League Soccer and U.S. men's national team members Taylor Twellman and Brian McBride will join the likes of former U.S. women's national soccer team standouts and Olympic gold medalists Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain to coach and mentor these promising high school players at the event.
"I was really honored and appreciative of the award," Newkirk said.
As a freshman, Newkirk came into the Los Alamitos program and earned playing time right away. It was a few games into the season when Rossi experimented with Newkirk's minutes.
"Right when I gave her a minute, she looked fine. I gave her another minute, she looks better, so I just started starting her," Rossi said. "She didn't have any jitters being a freshman. She played like she had been there before."
Newkirk has a calm personality that translates to the soccer field. Pressure never fazes her; she just goes about her business.
"I think a lot of that has to do with the other sports I played growing up, too," Newkirk said. "I did play softball for a really long time and my dad taught me that this is a game of failure and if you get on base three out of 10 times, you're a really good player.
"So, playing under that and making so many mistakes – and those were like significant mistakes when I was playing in that sport – being able to play in like soccer where it doesn't count your errors and knowing that if I mess up I have a chance to make it back and I can redeem myself is very reassuring for me."
Rossi loves having an offensive-minded defender. Newkirk will push up in the offensive zone on occasion but she's most deadly as a scorer off set pieces, corner kicks and free kicks.
Newkirk, who plays club ball for Strikers out of Orange County, takes full advantage of defensive mismatches whenever she has the opportunity.
"I think a lot of times it's easy to like recognize when somebody's super offensive minded so I know what that forward only wants to go forward and doesn't want to defend," Newkirk said. "I know that if I get the ball and I break her line that I'll mess up all of the midfield because she won't want to track back and defend me."
As well as having a great individual season, Newkirk was big in helping Los Alamitos to a strong campaign. The Griffins finished 28-2-4 and advanced all the way to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 title game before falling to national No 1 JSerra Catholic (San Juan Capistrano).
The team success made it a fun season for Newkirk but she was also able to play with her sister, Teryn
, who was a freshman. The duo hadn't played together since they were younger. Newkirk noted as her sister has gotten older the two have grown closer.
The elder Newkirk was able to offer her sister on-field advice throughout the year.
"She ended up doing super well at the end of the season and it was fun being able to do that with her," Newkirk said of Teryn.
A team captain, Newkirk has one final season at Los Alamitos before heading off to the University of Colorado. She started her recruiting process early and contacted a number of coaches. Looking to get out of California for college, Newkirk found the perfect fit in Boulder, Colo. She verbally committed to the Pac-12 school in July 2018.
"It was like the best of both worlds," Newkirk said. "It was what I wanted in a school – and I didn't know it at first that it was going to be Colorado but after my entire process it was like exactly what I wanted."
Rossi believes Colorado is a good fit for Newkirk's immense talent. But he knows his athlete is so much more than a great soccer player.
"She's a great student off the field, too," Rossi said. "I think she's one of those rare finds that on and off the field, you're lucky to have and proud to be able to coach her."