2019 NWSL College Draft Recap
The top talent in women’s college soccer gathered in Chicago for the 2019 NWSL College Draft for a defining moment of their career under the bright lights. Clubs look to the future as they reload their squads for the seventh NWSL campaign.
NWSL Soccer News: The 2019 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft was held on Thursday with some of the top talent in the game taking their skills to the professional level.
“As the women’s game grows, so will the visibility, expectations and opportunities,” said Amand Duffy, NWSL Managing Director. “Today we announce that the NWSL senior rosters have expanded to a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 22 players. The league has increased its salary cap as well as the minimum and maximum salary figures. The sixth consecutive season in which an increase has been implemented. The league’s permitted team assistance cap has nearly doubled from the 2018 season, allowing teams to spend additional amounts to provide players assistance outside of face compensation. Through all of these expansions and increases, we have owners and their talented staffs providing homes for the world’s best soccer players to showcase skills that fans can admire as well as see the fulfillment of these girls’ dreams.”
Below is a live update of the players selected.
1st Pick: Tierna Davidson – Midfielder/Defender – Standford (Chicago Red Stars)
2nd Pick: Hailie Mace – Forward/Defender – UCLA (Sky Blue FC)
3rd Pick: Jordan DiBiasi – Midfielder – Standford (Washington Spirit)
4th Pick: Samantha Staab – Midfielder/Defender – Clemson (Washington Spirit)
5th Pick: Leah Pruitt – Forward – USC (NC Courage)
6th Pick: Julia Ashley – Defender – Uni. of North Carolina (Sky Blue FC)
7th Pick: Tegan McGrady – Defender – Stanford (Washington Spirit)
8th Pick: Dorian Bailey – Forward/Midfielder – Uni. of North Carolina (Washington Spirit)
9th Pick: Hailey Harbison – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – Pepperdine (NC Courage)
10th Pick: Paige Monaghan – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – Butler University (Sky Blue FC)
11th Pick: Julie James – Midfielder/Defender – Baylor University (Sky Blue FC)
12th Pick: Ally Prisock – Defender – USC (Houston Dash)
13th Pick: CeCe Kizer – Forward/Midfielder – University of Mississippi (Houston Dash)
14th Pick: Lauren Milliet – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – Colorado College (North Carolina Courage)
15th Pick: Maria Sanchez – Forward/Midfielder – Santa Clara University (Chicago Red Stars)
16th Pick: Betsy Brandon – Midfielder – University of Virginia (Houston Dash)
17th Pick: Bayley Feist – Forward/Midfielder – Wake Forest University (Washington Spirit)
18th Pick: Kayla McCoy – Forward – Duke University (Houston Dash)
19th Pick: Kyra Carusa – Forward/Midfielder – Georgetown University (Sky Blue FC)
20th Pick: Bianca St. Georges – Forward/Defender – West Virginia University (Chicago Red Stars)
21st Pick: Jazmin Jackmon – Defender – University of Oregon (Houston Dash)
22nd Pick: Grace Cutler – Forward/Midfielder – West Virginia University (Houston Dash)
23rd Pick: Michelle Maemone – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – Pepperdine University (Utah Royals FC)
24th Pick: Emily Ogle – Midfielder – Penn State University (Portland Thorns FC)
25th Pick: Erin Greening – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – University of Colorado Boulder (Orlando Pride)
26th Pick: Kayla Sharples – Defender – Northwestern University (Chicago Red Stars)
27th Pick: Madeline Nolf – Defender – Penn State University (Utah Royals FC)
28th Pick: Kaylan Marckese – Goalkeeper – University of Florida (Sky Blue FC)
29th Pick: Kenie Wright – Midfielder/Defender – Rutgers University (Sky Blue FC)
30th Pick: Marisa Viggiano – Midfielder – Northwestern University (Orlando Pride)
31st Pick April Bockin – Forward – University of Minnesota (Chicago Red Stars)
32nd Pick: Alex Kimball – Forward/Midfielder/Defender – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Utah Royals FC)
33rd Pick: Hannah Davison – Defender – Northwestern University (Chicago Red Stars)
34th Pick: Sabrina Flores – Midfielder/Defender – University of Notre Dame (Sky Blue FC)
35th Pick: Jenna Szczesny – Forward – Loyola University Chicago (Chicago Red Stars)
36th Pick: Kaycie Tillman – Forward/Midfielder – Florida State University (North Carolina Courage)
Unable to attend due to international duty, Tierna Davidson was the recipient of the 2018 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year. She was named the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the year and earned a spot on the All-Pac 12 First Team, All-Pacific Region First Team, and All-America first team. She was the standout of a Stanford defense that set a program record with 19 shutouts and nine goals in 25 games.
“I would like to thank Rory Dames [Red Stars head coach] and the Red Stars organization for having confidence in me,” said Davidson via pre-recorded video. “I’d also like to thank my coaches, teammates and family for pushing me to be a better player and person both on and off the field.”
I would also like to congratulate the women that have been drafted today.”
“I am really excited,” said Leah Pruitt, 5th pick by the NC Courage. “I know this team is really good so it’s going to be competitive. I am going to have to work really hard, but I am excited to be a part of it.”
Pruitt is a standout player from USC. Pruitt finished her senior season second on the team in points (33) after scoring 12 goals and earning nine assists. Pruitt led the Pac-12 in game-winning goals (6).
When asked about what her greatest strength is on the pitch, Pruitt acknowledged her work ethic.
“I think how I come in 100% and work really hard,” said Pruitt. “I am always going to come in, work hard and have a good effort and attitude.”
When asked what her favorite part about soccer is, Pruitt cited competition as well as experiences.
Winning and being with my teammates are my favorite parts of the game,” said Pruitt. “I have so many good friends and memories playing. I was six years old when I started playing. I am glad I get to keep going.”
The Inland Empire native played for two elite clubs in the region before committing to the Trojans for her collegiate career.
“My club teams were West Coast and Slammers,” said Pruitt. “My college is USC. My club coaches taught me from a young age to work really hard. Work to win and to keep pushing to be a top player. My college coaches definitely helped transform me into the player I am today. They helped me grow into a well-rounded player. They get a lot of credit for how I play.”
“The only two things you control is your attitude and effort,” said Pruitt. “Give 100% every day, every practice no matter what.”
The Washington Spirit made a splash in the first round, selecting four of the top nine picks in the draft.
The Spirit selected the following players on Thursday afternoon: midfielder Jordan DiBiasi from Stanford, defender Samantha Staab from Clemson, defender/forward Tegan McGrady from Stanford and midfielder Dorian Bailey from North Carolina.
During the draft, the Spirit also acquired a second-round pick from Portland Thorns FC and selected forward/midfielder Bayley Feist with the 17th overall pick.
“We specifically targeted the younger players,” said Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke. “There is a crop of players on our squad that are strong U23 internationals. If we nurture and grow them, get their play at the right level, we expect them to be a crop seen on the U.S. Women’s National Team.”
Burke acknowledged the obstacles that the club will encounter given 2019 is a world cup year. However, he believes it will provide opportunities for the squad’s younger players to gain experience and composure at the professional level.
“I hope wholeheartedly that a great kid like Andi Sullivan gets called up,” said Burke. “It would be fantastic for us. Will we adjust around it? Yes, we will. But it’s like you say, there are cycles. You have the senior and U23 national team cycle right now. Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh are very young in that cycle as well. We’ve got some players in our squad that could potentially be called during the next full national team cycle. So when the senior national players are away during the FIFA Women’s World Cup, maybe our U23s rise to the occasion, get some seniority and realize playing with the senior national team is their dream. That they want to play in the world cup and listen to the national anthem while playing for this country. And we will be here to provide it for them. Did we think about that when we were drafting these players? Absolutely we did. Again, everybody is going to suffer when the world cup is on. We have a couple internationals that we are bringing in as well. We will be alright.”
Burke was also asked about his opinion of the college soccer structure. In particular, he discussed whether college development is adequately preparing players for the professional level.
“There are absolutely some fantastic coaches in college,” said Burke. “However, they are somewhat hog-tied by the fact that they have a very restrictive schedule. I speak to some coaches. It’s not an environment that advances players. It’s more maintenance-oriented. They play a game. There are recovery protocols. Passive and active recovery and then there is another game. There is not a lot of accumulation where it’s tactical or technical. And I feel sorry for them. There are some absolutely fantastic coaches in the college game. Evident by the fact of all those players that just came out of the college draft. They’re a product of the college system. Those guys did a great job given the restraints. I wish it wasn’t that way because I think we would get better footballers.”
Burke concluded by supporting a recent topic that is surrounding college soccer, which is to extend the season into the spring semester.
“Absolutely,” said Burke. “I am fully supportive of it. I understand that there are educational ramifications in terms of the school system. However, we want to prevent other nations from passing us. Our college program and development process is crucial.”
“It feels like I am on cloud nine right now,” said Jordan DiBiasi, 3rd pick by the Washington Spirit. “I am so excited, it’s so surreal.”
DiBiasi was a key part of Stanford’s midfield this season and was named Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year along with being named first-team All-America. She finished her career for the Cardinal with 31 goals and 23 assists, 15 of which were game winners. Her senior year she had 10 goals and 10 assists for 30 points.
When asked how familiar she is with the Washington squad, DiBiasi cited an old teammate that she is thrilled to be back on the pitch with.
“I can’t wait to play with Washington,” said DiBiasi. “I’ve been watching them because of Andi Sullivan, my old teammate. To get a chance to play with her again – I can’t wait for that. I am really excited about this new coaching staff and organization as well.”
DiBiasi was interviewed with fellow Washington draft pick Samantha Staab as they enjoyed achieving one of their lifelong dreams together.
“I think you always need a dream and then to chase it,” said DiBiasi. “I know that there are a lot of obstacles in the way, but if you really believe in yourself then anything can happen. I think you dream about this moment growing up. And to see it come to life is just…”
Amazing,” Staab added.
“I remember writing in my fifth grade yearbook what I wanted to be when I grew up,” said Staab. “I said a professional soccer player and it’s just surreal that it is actually happening. Always believe in yourself. If you want to get there you can.”
100%,” added DiBiasi. “If you believe it, you can do it. Always have confidence in yourself like no dream is too big. Do what you want and pursue it all the way.”
“I’m still shaking,” said Hailey Harbison, selected 9th by the NC Courage. “I am super excited. I was just texting Lynn [Williams] yesterday. I played my freshman year at Pepperdine with her so she was getting me excited for the draft and telling to live in the moment and enjoy it. Now I get to play with her so that is awesome. She also told me not to stress out about it. Although it was kind of hard not to stress out. But I am enjoying it still. I think the nervous part is gone. It’s going to be in the past after today. I’m just excited about actually being able to play.”
The San Diego native acknowledged the influence that Felicia Kappes, her youth head coach at Del Mar Sharks, has on her career and personal growth.
“Felicia is a family friend and was my club coach since I was little,” said Harbison. “She has been like my second mom. Helping me with more than just soccer. Life stuff too. She always pushes me to be my best.”
SoccerToday’s Diane Scavuzzo asked Harbison additional questions following her draft selection.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was your youth club experience like?
Hailey Harbison: Jeff Illingworth was my first coach at Manchester. We went to Felicia when we were 11. Jeff really grew my confidence as a player. I used to be a really shy, give other people the ball, type of player. When I got there he gave me a lot of confidence.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your best attribute on the field?
Hailey Harbison: Energy.
Diane Scavuzzo: What were expectations heading into the draft? Is it what you expected?
Hailey Harbison: I’ve always dreamed about it, but I didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like. I looked up to players on the U.S. national team, but I didn’t know exactly what it would look like to me [laughs].
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think about joining the Courage?
Hailey Harbison: I am just really excited to be surrounded by a bunch of amazing players. To grow my game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What can you learn from the other players on the team?
Hailey Harbison: Their experience. That can teach me a lot. They work really hard and are always ready when an opportunity comes.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think about Paul Riley as a coach?
Hailey Harbison: He’s clearly done a really good job. Lynn talks really well about him. I am excited to play for him.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the biggest issue with women’s soccer today?
Hailey Harbison: I would say it not being known by people in the U.S. People from my school didn’t know that there is a draft.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think enough people watch women’s soccer?
Hailey Harbison: I feel like its growing. Especially for the national team. I feel like more people can watch the NWSL.