“”With the fifth pick, the LA Sol select Nikki Washington!”
One of the top midfielders in the country, Washington’s collegiate season was cut short when she suffered an ACL injury just eight games in. It was a mere four months before the 2010 WPS draft would take place. Media experts predicted that she would go late in the first round or early in the second. However, having been sidelined with the injury, Washington had no expectations for her placement in the draft. So when the call came, the Mesquite, Texas native was ecstatic.
“When they called I was pumped,” Washington recalled a few days after the draft. “It’s great to have someone believe in me.”
Leading up to the draft, she spent time visiting former UNC teammates Tobin Heath (Atlanta Beat) and Casey Nogueira (Chicago Red Stars) up in Rhode Island, as well as Portland goalkeeper Kelsey Davis (Chicago Red Stars) and former UNC teammate Melissa Hayes. She also spent some time in Chapel Hill “still grinding it” in rehab for her ACL injury. For the record, her knee is doing “awesome” and better than expected.
The hype leading up to the draft was tremendous and the players weren’t immune to the whispers of predictions. It may not have been intentional, but like several other players, she heard some of the draft predictions. And while the top four selections of Heath, Cheney, O'Hara, and Engen weren’t surprising, the selection of Washington was one that surprised a lot of people.
“People weren’t expecting it,” said Washington.
Like her former UNC teammate Whitney Engen, Washington doesn’t feel any added pressure to perform being a top five pick. There’s always going to be natural pressure that a player puts on herself and because of that, the outside pressure doesn’t affect her.
“I’m happy to play again and play with the best,” Washington added.
With the talent across the league, there is no denying that Washington will get the opportunity to play with and against some of the best players in the world. Most of all, she’s looking forward to getting back out on the field again, winning, and simply playing soccer.
Usually, this is where the story ends. But upon the WPS suspending operations in LA, a new twist was thrown in Washington’s story. The rights to the 19 LA Sol players would be dispersed throughout the league. Ultimately, it meant that the dreams of 19 players were up in question. The league held a dispersal draft on Thursday February 4, 2010.
“I was a little upset at first,” said Washington of finding out about the Sol suspending operations. “But there are other great teams in the league. It didn’t mean my dream was over, it just meant that [it] would have to continue somewhere else.”
Washington was selected sixth overall in the dispersal draft by Sky Blue FC where she joins four North Carolina Tar Heels on the roster in Yael Averbuch, Heather O’Reilly, Jenni Branam, and Kacey White. Washington was ecstatic about moving to Sky Blue.
“Yael [Averbuch] and I are really good friends and I’ve played with HAO [Heather O’Reilly],” Washington stated. “Kacey White and I grew up in the same area and I’ve heard a lot about Jenni [Branam]."
Being drafted to the reigning WPS champions and knowing so many people on the team only adds to the excitement.
“I’m really excited!” Washington exclaimed of the move.
Photo courtsey of NC-Soccer, 2009