SAN JOSE -- Santa Teresa sophomore Tegan McGrady is a straight-A student and a member of the United States under-17 national soccer program.
This winter, the gifted player led her high school team to a top seed in the section playoffs.
But the games will go on without her.
McGrady, who already has given an oral commitment to play for Stanford, was suspended this week by the Central Coast Section for participating in two games at a national-team camp that were not approved by the California Interscholastic Federation, the state's governing body of high school athletics. The matches at the camp that began Jan. 26 were not approved because the national soccer federation submitted its paperwork just a couple of days before the event -- far short of the 30-day notice that the CIF requires.
McGrady's disciplinary action has ignited controversy as the CIF and CCS defended the ruling while the player's parents, coaches and teammates wondered why a model student is being punished for trying to represent her country in athletic competition.
"One of her teammates put on Twitter last night, which said it all -- she plays high school soccer, she goes to national camp and she carries a 4.0 and she's getting punished," McGrady's mother, Theresa McGrady, said Wednesday. "The hard part is she did all of this for her team, and yet it came back to haunt her team."
Santa Teresa forfeited its final four games because McGrady played in those contests as an ineligible athlete. McGrady also must serve a four-game suspension because CIF rules state that an athlete who participates in nonapproved outside competition must sit out twice as many high school competitions upon returning.
McGrady was unaware she was ineligible until it was brought to her high school coach's attention by an opposing coach at a playoff seeding meeting last weekend. Had Santa Teresa known sooner, McGrady could have sat out the final four games of the season and would have been eligible for the playoffs.
The CIF and CCS are not pointing a finger at McGrady. They mostly fault the national soccer program for not following proper paperwork procedures and also for not alerting California players such as McGrady that the competitions were not approved by the CIF.
They also say that Santa Teresa's new principal, Greg Louie, is culpable because CIF bylaws state that principals are responsible for verifying the authenticity of a program before signing an athlete's permission forms.
So though McGrady followed the rules, getting her principal's signature and submitting her paperwork, the principal signed off on a competition that was not approved.
Louie could not be reached for comment. Santa Teresa is on winter break.
Jill Ellis, development director for the U.S. women's youth soccer national team, said the CIF's rules are too stringent.
"I'll be honest with you, California and Michigan are the only states that have a concern with players playing for their national team," Ellis said. "As far as letting the players know (about being ineligible), no -- players get selected and it's our job to pick the best players.
"CIF has a lot of rules, a lot of technicalities. It's unrealistic for us to give a 30-day notice when sometimes with players we have injuries, last-minute replacements, we have rosters that haven't been selected. At the end of the day, Tegan McGrady plays two international games against Germany and now she's being suspended from her high school."
CCS Commissioner Nancy Lazenby Blaser said she worries that more suspensions could be forthcoming.
"We have heard there may be as many as six or seven girls in this area also who were at that camp," Lazenby Blaser said. "I have no way of knowing who they are."
Told that it seems students are being punished for adults errors, CIF spokeswoman Rebecca Brutlag said, "Exactly. We put in safeguards in the bylaws so that the adults can make sure that they know to help these students out, and they failed to do that. We put these things in so that the students are safe because we want the kids to play."
Santa Teresa remained the top seed in Division I because the CCS did not discover McGrady's infraction until after the seeding meeting. The Saints, whose record fell from 14-2-2 to 10-6-2 after the forfeits, will play their playoff opener Saturday -- without their best player.