Since 2013, college players looking to turn professional can enter their names in the National Women’s Soccer League draft. They hope to hear their names be called telling them they can continue to play the game they love. Two fortunate players from UCLA, Darian Jenkins, and Lauren Kaskie, were two of those players.
The 2017 National Women’s Soccer League draft was held this year in Los Angeles. I was fortunate enough to be able to be there in person to see the Bruins be selected. They were two of 40 players selected to play professionally in the NWSL.
In the first round with the seventh overall pick, the North Carolina Courage selected Darian Jenkins. In the fourth and final round with the 39th pick, the Chicago Red Stars selected Lauren Kaskie. While I was not able to speak with Kaskie, I did with Jenkins. I was only able to ask her a quick question before she was whisked away.
I asked her how her recovery has been going. She was still wearing a brace on her left foot. She told me, “It’s good. It’s going really well. I’m out of the boot next week, so I’m excited and then I can start running.”
While both players stated how grateful they are for the opportunity to continue to play, they both have a tough challenge ahead of them. Switching from college play to professional play is a challenge in itself, but so is breaking the starting XI in their respective teams.
Lauren Kaskie will be shipping off to Chicago in hopes of getting into the starting lineup for head coach Rory Dames. Chicago is a team with a lot of depth at every position. In the midfield, there are three players who are a fix in the starting lineup with the fourth spot thrown in the air between four other players. Those five players have all proven to Dames they are very much capable of taking the field. Now, that is not saying Kaskie isn’t capable because she is, but she is going to a team with a lot of depth in the midfield. She will have to fight hard to prove she deserves to be on the field.
Jenkins is heading off to North Carolina, the new home of the team formerly known as the Western New York Flash. She is heading to the team that won the 2016 NWSL Championship title. That is intimidating in itself. She is a great forward with the capability of playing on the wing. However, after her injury, some believed she would be selected in later rounds. Instead, she was taken in the first round by a team that has a lot of attacking players. Due to the depth in forwards and midfielders, it will be hard to see where exactly she will fit in. Obviously, she will bolster the attack-minded Courage, but playing time will be a challenge. Again, like with Kaskie, the coach and owners saw something special in her and knew she could be an integral member to their team.
Both Kaskie and Jenkins will face some hardships with their new teams. Transitioning from college to professional and switching locations are just some of the hardships rookies experience. However, there’s no doubt they can make an impact with their respective teams. It’s going to be exciting to watch them as their careers start to blossom.
Good luck and go Bruins!!!