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GERMANTOWN, Md. (Feb. 15) — Washington Spirit fans won’t have to wait until the home opener on April 20 to see their new team up close, and they won’t have to pay a dime.
On Friday morning, the Spirit announced the first games of a planned series of preseason games in preparation for the upcoming National Women’s Soccer League season, with home matches planned against three major college programs — including the defending national champions and runners-up — and more on the way.
The Spirit will host Penn State at 4 p.m. on March 17, North Carolina at 3 p.m. on March 30 and Virginia at 7:30 p.m. on April 6. Additional scrimmages will be announced in the coming days.
The scrimmages allow fans an early opportunity to watch the Spirit play within the friendly confines of the Maryland SoccerPlex as they train in advance of the April 14 season opener at the Boston Breakers.
Tickets to the games are free, with fans only needing to claim theirs through the Washington Spirit online ticket portal (tickets.washingtonspirit.com). All tickets are general admission, with a limit of two per email address.
“We are thrilled at the chance to take on top quality college opponents as we gear up for the NWSL season,” Spirit head coach Mike Jorden said. “This marks an important step in our preseason preparations, and will be a great opportunity for fans to get a first look at their new team.”
With two months until the NWSL season begins, the scrimmages provide an opportunity for Spirit players to sharpen their skills against three top college programs:
Penn State (Sunday, March 17 @ 4:00 p.m.)
Even for the Big Ten Conference’s most dominant program, 2012 was a special year. The Nittany Lions posted their best record in school history (21-4-2, 10-0-1 Big Ten in 2012), winning their 15th straight conference title and finishing as runners-up at the Women’s College Cup.
The team lost midfielder and MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Christine Nairn to graduation, but there is plenty of other talent on board. Forward Maya Hayes — who led the nation in goals (31) in 2011 — finished last season as an All-American with 16 goals and six assists in 20 matches. Forward Mallory Weber is coming off a sizzling freshman campaign in which she scored 13 goals with four assists.
The Nittany Lions have a connection to the Spirit as well, counting a distinguished alumnus among our roster. Defender Ali Krieger was a two-time All-American at PSU from 2003-2006.
North Carolina (Saturday, March 30 @ 3:00 p.m.)
The Tar Heels (15-5-3 in 2012) are one of the most dominant programs in all of college athletics, having won 21 of 31 women’s soccer national championships — including last season’s. The big name to watch will be UNC midfielder Crystal Dunn, who claimed the Hermann Trophy last year after winning Atlantic Coast Conference Defender of the Year, then moving to midfield and creating or scoring a goal in all five postseason matches. She also featured on the U.S. U-20 squad that won the 2012 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and she earned her first cap for the full women’s national team in February of this year against Scotland.
Dunn will be lined up across from another UNC national champion in Spirit defender Robin Gayle, who captained the Tar Heels to their 18th title in 2006. U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris played alongside Gayle on that title-winning team and is slated to join the Spirit later in the season after finishing her club obligations in Germany.
Virginia (Saturday, April 6 @ 7:30 p.m.)
The Cavaliers (18-5-1 in 2012) are coming off an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title, and they’ll be opposite a very familiar face when they take on the Spirit.
Caroline Miller starred for UVA at forward last season, winning 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year before being selected 9th overall by the Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft.
In Miller’s stead, midfielder Morgan Brian and forward Makenzy Doniak will lead the Cavaliers’ attack. Both players have featured in the U.S. national team program, with Brian starring for the U-20 squad at the Women’s World Cup and Doniak earning a recent call-up to the U-20 training camp.
In addition to Miller, UVA boasts three other alumni on the Spirit roster: goalkeeper Chantel Jones, defender Kika Toulouse and midfielder Lori Lindsey.
These will not be the only three preseason games hosted by the Spirit. Final touches are being placed on at least one, and possibly two more as Mike Jorden looks to finalize his roster and bring them together early to start the season of strong.
Fans wishing to attend any of the preseason games need only order and print free tickets from tickets.washingtonspirit.com prior to arriving at the stadium on game day.