Boyds, MD (March 8, 2018) – The Washington Spirit will host the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at Evergreen SportsPlex in Leesburg, Va. on Saturday night in the club’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) preseason opener. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. ET.
Saturday will mark the second year in a row that the Spirit have hosted the 22-time women’s college soccer national champion Tar Heels for a preseason friendly at Evergreen Sportsplex. Washington defeated North Carolina 5-0 in front of a sell-out crowd of 2,000 fans in 2017.
“It’s great to be able to bring the Spirit to Northern Virginia,” said Spirit head coach and general manager Jim Gabarra. “It’s an important part of our market, so to bring the team out to those families’ homes in their town gives us a chance to broaden our brand and show people how great the Spirit is.”
Washington kicked off training camp ahead of the 2018 NWSL season on February 19, and will conclude the third week of preseason with its first of two friendlies. The Spirit’s first opponent, UNC, posted a 17-3-2 record in 2017, and won their 21st Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title. The Tar Heels are the most decorated team in women’s college soccer history, having won 22 out of 37 NCAA national championships.
“It’s always good to play against UNC because you know you’re going to get a consistent work rate and they’re going to put us under pressure, which is something we’re going to see during the regular season,” Gabarra said. “Even if we solve that pressure it’s going to continue and it’s going to be relentless, which is something we also look forward to in our preseason.”
A total of 15 players who represented the Spirit in 2017 are back for the 2018 season, while 14 newcomers – including three non-roster invitees – are present on the current preseason roster.
Washington returns its leading goal scorer, U.S. Women’s National Team forward Mallory Pugh, who found the net six times as a rookie in 2017. The Spirit acquired four more U.S. Women’s National Team players during the recently completed offseason, entering the 2018 NWSL season with five U.S. internationals.
Over the course of the offseason, the team added U.S. international defender Taylor Smith and forward Ashley Hatch via trade from the North Carolina Courage; midfielder Andi Sullivan with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft; and midfielder Rose Lavelle via the NWSL Dispersal Draft.
Washington also selected Canadian international defender/midfielder Rebecca Quinn with the No. 3 overall pick in the NWSL College Draft out of Duke University. With Quinn, the five U.S. internationals, as well as returning midfielders Yanara Aedo (Chile) and Estefania Banini (Argentina), and forward Francisca Ordega (Nigeria), the Spirit roster feature nine total players who are members of their respective national teams.
In addition, the Spirit returns several top performers from last season. Just a few of the team’s key returning players include: defender Estelle Johnson, who was named to the NWSL Team of the Month twice in 2017; midfielder Havana Solaun, who scored five goals and led the team with four assists in her first season with the club; and midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard, who led the team in passing as a rookie.
Midfielder Tori Huster, the longest tenured Spirit player, enters her sixth season with the club after joining in 2013 ahead of the inaugural NWSL season. Six other players: Johnson, Ordega, goalkeeper Kelsey Wys, defenders Whitney Church and Caprice Dydasco, and midfielder Joanna Lohman are each entering their fourth seasons in Washington.
On March 17, the Spirit will close out the preseason by hosting 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 already been sold for the game. Tickets are available at RichmondKickers.com. [TICKETS]
The Spirit will begin the NWSL regular season on March 24 with a road game against Seattle Reign FC, before hosting the Orlando Pride on March 31 at the Maryland SoccerPlex for their regular season home opener. Over 2,000 tickets have been sold for the Spirit’s home opener, which will be nationally televised as the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime. [TICKETS]
Single game tickets for the Spirit’s regular season home games are available now at Tickets.WashingtonSpirit.com or by calling the club’s ticket office at 301-591-0927.
2018 Washington Spirit Preseason Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Bledsoe , DiDi Haracic, Kelsey Wys
Defenders (8): Chiny Asher (NRI), Brittany Basinger (CDP), Whitney Church, Caprice Dydasco, Estelle Johnson, Rebecca Quinn (CDP), Taylor Smith, Elizabeth Wenger (CDP)
Midfielders (10): Yanara Aedo, Estefania Banini, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Maddie Huster (CDP), Tori Huster, Rose Lavelle, Joanna Lohman, Morgan Proffitt, Havana Solaun, Andi Sullivan (CDP)
Forwards (8): Cali Farquharson, Ashley Hatch, Ashley Myers (NRI), Francisca Ordega, Mallory Pugh, Arielle Ship, Marissa Sullivan (NRI), Mallory Eubanks (CDP)
CDP – 2018 NWSL College Draft pick
NRI – Non-Roster Invitee