By Lauren Green
Philadelphia — The 2018 NWSL College Draft was the next career step for 40 players on Thursday. For some, it will be a journey with a familiar face in the professional ranks.
Duke University had six players drafted, including two in the first five picks with Rebecca Quinn heading to the Washington Spirit (No. 3 overall) and Imani Dorsey to Sky Blue FC (No. 5 overall).
Dorsey, the first player selected who was in attendance at this year’s draft, made the nearly eight-hour drive on Thursday morning from Durham, N.C., to Philadelphia, P.A., the site of the draft, after she had multiple flights canceled.
“It’s snowing in Durham right now so my flight got canceled,” Dorsey said. “Then I booked another flight and that got canceled. I booked another flight and that got moved to 10 a.m. today. My assistant coach Erwin was like ‘Hey, I’m still here. Let’s drive.’ The conditions in North Carolina were very scary, but it was smooth sailing [once we got to Virginia].”
Within about 15 minutes of Dorsey’s selection, two trades were announced, which, among other things, left Sky Blue FC with three picks in row in the first round. The trade sent the No. 6 and No. 24 picks to the Chicago Red Stars plus two players to be named later and the No. 7 pick, an international slot and a player to be named later to Houston. The Red Stars then sent the No. 6 and No. 13 picks to Sky Blue plus three players to be named later. The full details of that trade have yet to be officially announced.
In the meantime, Dorsey was thrilled with a different trade—one that reunited her with a former teammate.
“The fact that I’m going to Sky Blue and getting to play with my former teammate Christina Gibbons makes me so happy,” Dorsey said. (Gibbons, a second-year NWSL player out of Duke, was traded by Utah Royals FC to Sky Blue FC on December 29.)
Sky Blue FC also added a pair of Mountaineers with the No. 4 and No. 6 picks selecting Michaela Abam and Amandine Pierre-Louis.
Dorsey isn’t the only Duke player who will have a familiar face alongside them on the field in their rookie season. The Washington Spirit drafted a pair of Blue Devils—Quinn in the third spot and Schuyler Debree at No. 11 overall.
“I’m so happy. Especially this year, we’ve gotten a lot closer. … [Quinn’s] probably the best player I’ve ever played with,” Debree said.
Thanks to the pair of trades that happened Thursday morning, the Chicago Red Stars had to wait until the second round to make their first picks of the day. The Red Stars used two of those picks to select another pair of teammates—this time from the West Coast in California-Berkley goalkeeper Emily Boyd and defender Indigo Gibson.
“We have an amazing connection on the field and we’ve been dreaming about this since we were little, so I’m really excited. It will be fun to play with [Boyd],” Gibson said.
Earlier in the day, as expected, the Washington Spirit selected Andi Sullivan with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and soon after, the Boston Breakers added South Carolina product Savannah McCaskill to their roster.
Boston Breakers head coach Matt Beard expects that McCaskill will potentially be competing for a starting spot immediately.
“What I like about her is her movement. Just her understanding of when to drop, when to pull off a shoulder. She doesn’t just score simple goals, she scores some great goals as well,” Beard said. “Last year on occasions we created good chance. We just didn’t take the chances and I feel Savannah is a player who can do that. I think she’s going to have a great future in the NWSL and on the national team because she scores goals.”
Both Sullivan and McCaskill are currently in camp with the U.S. women’s national team and were unable to attend the draft in person, but recorded video messages that were shared after their selections.
The Washington Spirit were also busy before the draft, dealing the rights to forward Crystal Dunn to North Carolina in exchange for Taylor Smith and Ashley Hatch. Jim Gabarra’s squad also grabbed the No. 3 pick in a trade with Houston that sent Canadian international Lindsay Agnew and the No. 6 pick to the Houston Dash.
With that third overall pick, Gabarra selected Quinn. Hatch and Smith, plus Mallory Pugh, Sullivan and Quinn will form the core of a young Spirit squad in 2018.
“What we went through last year where we were struggling to field enough players to play to now where you’ve got competition two and three deep at every spot,” Gabarra said. “It’s going to be important with our league having 10 stable teams now, rosters are really difficult to make.”