The 2015 NWSL College Draft class has big names out of the gate but doesn’t have the depth of last year’s class, overall. In other words, teams aren’t getting the quality of players towards the end of the draft that they would have gotten a year ago. Nonetheless, there’s a number of prospects who have the talent and skills necessary to help teams rebuild and deal with holes created by the Women’s World Cup.
One of the more interesting stories to follow is what direction the Western New York Flash take as they use the draft to help them complete their rehaul. After striking out at the draft last year, Western New York hired former LA Blues manager Charlie Naimo as technical director to guide their selections. Since they have needs just about everywhere, and four of the first seven picks, how will they prioritize?
Top players to keep an eye on, by position:
Katelyn Rowland – UCLA
Sabrina D’Angelo- South Carolina
Jordan Day – Texas A&M
Heading into the 2015 draft, there doesn’t appear to be much room on the league’s 20-women rosters for goalkeepers. Most teams in the league will lose a keeper during the World Cup, however there’s a need for at least reserve keepers. There hasn’t been much indication since it came out that Adrianna Franch was exploring her options in Europe whether she’ll return Western New York or not. If she’s not set to return, the Flash will likely turn to the draft for a second goalkeeper.
As far as keepers in the draft go, Rowland and D’Angelo are better by a fairly high margin than anyone else. Katelyn Rowland, of course, set the NCAA record for career shutouts this year at UCLA while acting as the last line of defense for the college game’s stingiest defense two years running. With great height and superb shot-stopping skills, this USWNT U-20 veteran will likely be the first keeper off the board.
Sabrina D’Angelo looks primed to see time in net for Canada after the current cycle. While she might be slightly undersized for a keeper coming in at 5-feet-8-inches, she’s a phenomenal shot-stopper and possesses great foot skills and a cannon for a left leg. Unfortunately, her college career came to a surprising halt when she broke her right wrist in practice after the Gamecocks’ first NCAA tournament game. That unfortunate end might make her even hungrier to start her professional career. D’Angelo could benefit from the extra international spot given to offset the havoc the World Cup will cause to rosters.
Abby Dalhkemper, UCLA
Kristin Grubka, Florida State
Arin Gilliland, Kentucky
Meghan Streight, Texas A&M
Jaelene Hinkle, Texas Tech
Whitney Church, Penn State
Taylor Leach, South Carolina
Abby Dahlkemper is where the center back position is headed, defenders that are able to help kickstart the offense. A four-year starter and anchor of the nation’s best defense, Dahlkemper will be a top-five draft pick. A four-time All-American and the first defender to be named a MAC Hermann finalist in 10 years, it might not be too long before Dahlkemper gets a shot at the full U.S. national team.
One question surrounding the defensive talent and the draft is where a pair of defensive midfielders turned All-American center backs will go and what position will they play at the next level. Both are undersized as a move back to the midfield may in their best interest. Meghan Streight times herself well in the air and has evolved into a good decision maker. Whitney Church was the “brain” of the Nittany Lions defense and is an excellent 1-v-1 defender.
Moving to outside back, the first two off the board look to be Arin Gilliland and Jaelene Hinkle. Last season, the fast and athletic Gilliland moved from left back to forward when the Wildcats were struggling offensively and moved back to defense when the team had the opposite problem. In both positions, she delivered exactly what the team needed. Jaelene Hinkle gets up and down the flank at a blistering pace and defends well in 1-v-1 situations.
Morgan Brian, Virginia
Sarah Killion, UCLA
Sam Mewis, UCLA
Danielle Colaprico, Virginia
Shea Groom, Texas A&M
Kelley Monogue, Texas A&M
Havana Solaun, Florida
Daphne Corboz, Georgetown
Morgan Brian will of course go first overall to Houston. Below the two time MAC Hermann winner, however, is a plethora of attacking midfield talent. Just below Brian are Sarah Killion and Sam Mewis, both of UCLA. Killion, is a great all-around midfielder with incredible vision. Sky Blue FC coach Jim Gabarra told The Equalizer on Saturday that “if we had to pick today, it would probably be Killion,” at No. 2.
Mewis, a 2014 MAC Hermann semifinalist finally put everything together her senior year. Although UCLA is known a defensive juggernaut, the team improved their goals-per-game average by nearly a goal from 2013 to 2014. Mewis was a huge reason why.
Danielle Colaprico certainly saved the best for last. The Virginia player saw time at all four positions in the midfield and showed that she can excel no matter where she lines up. Despite her small stature she’s shown she can more than hold her own against much taller players.
There was much speculation prior to the release of the declared players as to whether Daphne Corboz’s name would be on it. The Hoyas’ all-time points leader, has incredible vision and operates well in tight spaces. Arguably the most technical player in the draft, Corboz will make a fine addition to a NWSL team., although there is still no guarantee she doesn’t sign abroad. Coming in at 5-feet-2-inches, she’s likely to hit the deck at times.
Sofia Huerta, Santa Clara
Stephanie McCaffrey, Boston College
Tatiana Coleman, University of Central Florida
Lynn Williams, Pepperdine
Chioma Ubogagu, Stanford
Rachel Tejada, Illinois State
Stephanie Verdoia, Seattle
Cara Walls, Wisconsin
Last year was almost overflowing with talent at forward, this year the well is almost dry. It would be surprising to see any forwards go off the board until near the end of the first round.
The big surprise of this year’s crop of forwards came last month when it was announced that Sofia Huerta would forego a future with the Mexican National team and attempt to earn a spot with the U.S. national team in the future. The speedster, who slices and dices defenders will be one of the first forwards of the board.
Boston College just seemed snake-bitten this season, losing two of it’s best players — McKenzie Meehan and Casey Morrison — before the season started, which resulted in poor season for the Eagles and a down year in production for Stephanie McCaffrey. Nonetheless, the dynamic forward has been tested against crucible that is the ACC and averaged eight goals a season as an Eagle. That’s none too shabby. She also just earned a U.S. women’s national team call-up.
A big question on Friday will be whether teams take a chance on talent from smaller conferences as strikers for smaller conferences don’t have the best track record in making the transition to the professional ranks. The 2015 draft may create the perfect storm for talent from small conferences to get a chance thanks to lack of true top-tier talent combined with the roster issues the World Cup will create. Rachel Tejada would undoubtedly one to benefit. The Redbird piled up points during her four years and is the only player be in the top five for both goals and assists among the draftees.
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