PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — A year ago, the National Women’s Soccer League was evolving into existence.
This time around, instead of an entire league being built from scratch, just one team is slowing but surely building towards the 2014 campaign: the Houston Dash.
Former Notre Dame(w) head coach Randy Waldrum continued to add to his new side, selecting four players in Friday’s draft, enjoying the process of a new challenge.
“I’m not watching 15 year old kids now and trying to see if I can convince them to come to my college,” he said after the 2014 NWSL draft. “I built the program from scratch at Baylor, and building a college program’s a little bit different than building a pro club, but it’s been exciting, been a lot of fun.”
Of the four players the Dash selected from different colleges, there was a clear emphasis on adding attacking pieces. It started with North Carolina(w) star Kealia Ohai with the second overall pick. Mississppi(w) forward Rafaelle Souza came next with at No. 10, then the Dash traded up to the eleventh pick and took UCF(w) center back Marissa Diggs.
The day wrapped up for the Houston franchise with the selection of Nebraska(w) attacker Jordan Jackson at No. 28.
Ohai, the club’s first ever college draft pick, was pleased to be reunited with Waldrum.
"I've had him for one camp with the U23s, and he's such an incredible coach,” she said. “When I heard he was going to the Houston Dash, I thought that they're so lucky to have him. I know it was hard for him to leave Notre Dame because it's such an incredible program, and he's done such amazing things there. But I think it just shows his dedication to growing the sport in this country.”
Sharing the North Carolina(w) star’s enthusiasm for Waldrum’s addition to the league was NWSL Executive Director Cheryl Bailey.
"It's great to have somebody of the caliber of Randy to come into the league. No doubt his pedigree and what he's done at Notre Dame and the other stops along the way in college really is great for the league. I think he's going to bring a great deal into this league to be able to bring that forward."
From his new team’s perspective, Waldrum was unsurprisingly pleased with the draft-day haul.
“We’re extremely excited, and then to have Jordan Jackson fall into our laps here at the end I think that’s a steal,” he said. “I think she’s a fantastic player, I had her with the 23s also and she can play anywhere on the field. For a new expansion franchise you need players with that kind of versatility so I couldn’t be happier with this day.”
The addition of four players continues the team building process, as the Dash prepare for the opening weekend of the season – reported to be the weekend of April 12.
And Waldrum is eagerly awaiting the team’s opening day, as the enthusiasm continues to build towards the team’s first game.
“It’s been off the charts,” he said of the area’s excitement for the Dash. “I think the first day I got there I picked up 1,500 followers on Twitter as soon as I took the job,” he said. “The market’s been buzzing, I think we’ve sold over 2,000 season tickets and we haven’t really started our push for the tickets. It’s going crazy down there about it.”