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Veteran Washington Spirit players excited to play alongside newcomers in 2018

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Boyds, MD (February 27, 2018)The recently completed offseason brought major changes to clubs across the National Women’s Soccer League, and when the dust settled, the Washington Spirit kicked off preseason training camp last week with a new-look roster featuring some of the world’s most exciting young players, paired with a core group of returning veteran talent.

In a trade with the North Carolina Courage announced on January 16, Washington acquired U.S. Women’s National Team defender Taylor Smith and U.S. international forward Ashley Hatch, who was named the 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year after scoring seven goals in her debut season. Just days later, the Spirit selected U.S. international midfielder Andi Sullivan with the top overall pick, and Canadian international defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn with the third overall pick in the NWSL College Draft.

[PHOTO GALLERY: Opening week of Washington Spirit 2018 preseason training camp]

On January 30, Washington selected U.S. international midfielder Rose Lavelle with the No. 1 pick in the NWSL Dispersal Draft. It was the fifth acquisition of a U.S. or Canadian international player under the age of 25 by the Spirit in a two-week span.

In total, Washington made seven selections in the NWSL College Draft and has carried over two players from the NWSL Dispersal Draft, setting up a competitive preseason training camp. Meanwhile, a multitude of key returning players have spent their offseasons recovering, training or playing overseas on loan in order take their games to the next level.

“We’re all really excited for the season,” said Spirit Head Coach and General Manager Jim Gabarra. “The players came in [to preseason camp] with really good spirits and lots of great energy, and it’s a great foundation to start the new year.”

[NEWS: Mallory Pugh, Taylor Smith, Andi Sullivan named to final USWNT roster for SheBelieves Cup]

Defender Estelle Johnson had one of her best professional seasons in 2017, anchoring the Spirit back line and earning her way onto the NWSL Team of the Month twice, in both April and June. Johnson and fellow defender Whitney Church each signed new contracts with the club last week, as they both enter their fourth season in Washington.

“I think Jim did a great job bringing in a lot of energetic players,” Johnson said. “It’s great to see a lot of new faces and a lot of young players. The energy level is high so I think it’s going to be a great season. We’ll have a cohesive unit from the beginning, and I’m really looking forward to working with all of the defenders.”

Midfielder Joanna Lohman, who also enters her fourth season with the Spirit, has kicked off the preseason as a full participant in training camp, having made a full recovery from an ACL injury sustained in the 2017 season opener against the North Carolina Courage last April.

Lohman said she is excited to be a part of the talented group of midfielders that Gabarra and the Spirit technical staff has assembled, as new additions like Lavelle and Sullivan complement a returning group which includes Argentine international Estefania Banini, longest tenured Spirit player Tori Huster, and University of Florida alumnae Meggie Dougherty Howard and Havana Solaun, among others.

“I think we have a really great group of players, both players that were here last year and new players that are mixing in,” Lohman said. “I’ve got a lot of young kids around me now, and we need it because again, last season was tough, so I’m really excited about the players we have coming in. They’re not only great players, but they seem like great people, and women to have in the locker room. I think the vibe this year will be energetic, and we’re very optimistic about the season.”

Tickets for Washington’s 2018 NWSL regular season home opener, set for March 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET against the Orlando Pride, are on sale now at Tickets.WashingtonSpirit.com.

Single game tickets for all 11 of the 12 Washington Spirit regular season home games will be available soon. Fans can sign up now for the 2018 Single Game Tickets Pre-Sale, to be among the first to buy single game tickets. Ticketing for the August 25 game against Portland will be announced at a later date.

The Spirit preseason will feature just two games, both open to the public.

On Saturday March 10, Washington will return to Evergreen Sportsplex in Leesburg, Va. for the second straight year for a friendly against the 22-time women’s college champion University of North Carolina Tar Heels. [TICKETS]

On March 17, the Spirit will host the first ever NWSL match played in Richmond, Va. when they face the North Carolina Courage at the historic City Stadium. More than 2,000 tickets have arleady been sold. A limited number of tickets for the game in Richmond are still available at RichmondKickers.com. [TICKETS]