By: Thomas Clark
The NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer Tournament kicked off Friday evening with 64 teams preparing for battle. High-level conference champions will face off against mid-majors hungry for an upset, while at-large bids are looking to keep their championship aspirations alive.
Wherever you look, the tournament is littered with incredible talent featuring WPSL players, present and past. The following highlights a few of the intriguing WPSL storylines set to play out in what should be an exciting and entertaining tournament.
Myers and Weaver lead Washington State
In Pullman, Washington, fans of the Cougars have grown accustomed to watching a dominant soccer team. The Cougars have earned 10 wins in each of the past three seasons, a difficult task in the always competitive Pac-12.
This year, the Cougars are cruising into the NCAA tournament with 13 wins at their backs including dominant victories over Seattle (4-0) and San Diego State (5-0).
This year the team has been especially efficient in the final third utilizing the talents of two WPSL stars, Molly Myers and Morgan Weaver.
Myers, a native of Oceanside, California, was an absolute force for the San Diego Surf this past season. Myers leads the team with six goals and constantly put pressure on opposing defenses. With Washington State, Myers has been equally as impressive scoring four goals thus far as a sophomore.
Although Myers is still honing her game and developing, Weaver provides the Cougars with experience and veteran leadership. The senior forward has 11 goals this season, including a four-goal outburst against conference rival Colorado. Weaver will be looking to bring in conference awards this season, for she was named First-Team All-Pac-12 as a Junior.
Weaver starts for the dominant Seattle Sounders Women this past WPSL season and helped the team to the 2018 WPSL Championship. Weaver tallied three goals and an assist for the Sounders.
Washington State hosted Memphis in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, November, 15th.
Parker anchoring UCLA’s backline
When Lucy Parker made her way to the United States to play collegiate soccer, she had already dominated the English game.
Parker played 10 years in the Arsenal Women’s Soccer Academy and was a three-time Arsenal Player of the Year. On the national level, Parker has moved up the ranks of the English youth national teams and recently helped the U-19 side win the International Cup.
In the states, Parker has been just as dominant. In two seasons at LSU, Parker anchored the backline while also providing an offensive spark. After being named All-American Third Team and All-SEC First Team, Parker made the decision to transfer to UCLA for her final two years of collegiate soccer.
The move has paid off, for UCLA is heading into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed and looking like a legitimate championship contender. UCLA’s success can, in large part, be attributed to Parker’s efforts as a one-on-one defender and leader of the backline. Parker has been named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week twice this season and was named All Pac-12 Second Team at the conclusion of the regular season.
Parker played 2019 WPSL Champions Pensacola FC, utilizing the league as an opportunity to hone her game during the collegiate offseason. UCLA will host Lamar on Friday.
ACC foes ready to roll
Alexa Spaanstra and Rachael Dorwart both know the pressures of starring for a team.
Both players were highly-ranked recruits in high school, having played for the United States U-17 National Team and led their respective WPSL clubs through regular season play with sensational performances. The two have also faced off collegiately, with Spaanstra starring for Virginia and Dorwart playing for North Carolina.
This past WPSL season, Spaanstra helped guide Motor City FC to the WPSL Championship. Spaanstra leads the team with 9 goals and added 3 assists.
And with Virginia, Spaanstra is a facilitator. Although the sophomore has scored only three goals thus far in the 2019 campaign, she has an incredible 12 assists. In two seasons, Spaanstra has a track record of coming up big in big moments, assisting four game-winning goals as a freshman, while scoring on two of her own.
Dorwart has built quite a legacy in her own right, tallying five goals and five assists as a freshman last season. Although Dorwart’s stats are down in her sophomore campaign, she has been an integral part of UNC coach Anson Dorrance’s ACC Championship-Winning squad. Much like Spaanstra, Dorwart stars for the WPSL’s Penn Fusion SA, playing the past two seasons leading the team in goals with 10 this past WPSL season.
The two sophomores faced off in this year’s ACC Championship game, with Dorwart’s Tar Heels coming out on top. Although the two teams would not face off until a potential NCAA Championship game, the teams are most certainly hoping for another shot at their heated rivals. Both teams begin tournament play Saturday, for Virginia faces off vs. Radford University, while North Carolina will look to defeat Belmont University at home.