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Many rookies go into their first professional preseason having no idea what to expect, having never had the opportunity to train with a professional team. The most simple things lead to worry as the days tick down to that 1st day of camp, such getting lost going to the stadium or not knowing anyone on the team. But none of the above will be a concern for Meggie Dougherty Howard. The 2017 Washington Spirit draftee will have a leg up on her peers when she arrives next month for preseason, having played the past two summer’s for the Washington Spirit Reserves team, which frequently trains side-by-side with the pros on any one of the club’s 24 pristine fields adorning their Maryland SoccerPlex home.
Dougherty Howard was able to attend the NWSL College Draft in Los Angeles last month after being called into the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team camp, which was held the same week in LA. After a nervous wait, the University of Florida star heard her name called for the No. 29 overall pick. The whole experience was one she will remember for a long time.
“The atmosphere was very intense, but exciting,” said Dougherty Howard following the Draft. “I’m so excited to head back to Washington and so grateful for the opportunity. The NWSL put on a great event, and I’m happy that I was able to be there and get to experience it.”
Spirit Reserves head coach and pro team assistant KJ Spisak was sitting at the Spirit draft table and was bursting with pride seeing one of her players drafted to her home club. After working together to bring the USL W-League Championship to the Spirit in 2015 and to win the Colonial Conference going undefeated in 2016 in the WPSL, the duo will be reunited as Spisak returns as assistant coach to the pro team.
“It is always fulfilling witnessing someone obtain their goals, but it’s different when you work with someone to successfully reach a life dream,” said Spisak. “Meggie’s consistent effort day in and day out, year after year got her to where she is now. She never stopped believing in herself, never stopped challenging those around her, and never is satisfied with her accomplishments.”
In between spending her summers with the Spirit, the midfielder was tearing it up with the Florida Gators. During her senior year, she led the team in assists (12), finished second in points (28), and tied for second in goals (8). The Largo, Florida native recorded an assist or goal (or both) in each NCAA Tournament match. She was named the SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player after registering an assist in each tournament match, including on the golden goal in the final to lock up the victory for the Gators and put a stamp on a successful college career.
“It was just a thrilling tournament that helped us grow because we faced a lot of adversity and were able to overcome it,” Dougherty Howard said on the SEC Tournament.
With her time playing soccer for the Gators over, Dougherty Howard will be heading back to the Washington area to rejoin her summer club, but this time with the pro team. Having been invited into pro trainings in the past and spent time around the club, the 21-year-old feels more prepared coming into this preseason.
“I was able to get familiarized with the club and the Spirit’s style of play, which is the way I like to play as well,” said Dougherty Howard. “Playing with the Reserves allowed me the opportunity to train with the players and coaches, which helped raise the level of my game.”
Spisak is confident that Dougherty Howard will fit in well at this next level of play and is excited about the skill and work ethic she will bring to the pro team.
“The club picked up a great player who has yet to reach her full potential,” said Spisak. “She will bring positive energy on and off the field. Meggie always wants more from herself, teammates, and coaches.”
That positive energy will serve her well when she steps into preseason in March, fighting to earn her place on the Washington Spirit pro team roster. It will be a new, exciting journey, but one with which she is already partially familiar.
Rookie Four Fun Facts:
Favorite soccer player: “Andres Iniesta”
Favorite non-soccer athlete: “Dustin Pedroia”
Nickname: “I have many! Meg, Megs, MDH, Meggers, Megster”
If you could have lunch with any three people, who would they be? “Jimmy Fallon, Adele, John Terry”
The Spirit’s preseason will start on March 18 against Penn State University, followed by the club’s first visit to play a game in the Commonwealth of Virginia March 25, then returning to the SoccerPlex for two more matches prior to their 5th NWSL season. Preseason tickets for three games are free, with tickets to the March 25 match $10. 2017 Season Tickets include all preseason games and are available now by calling 301-591-0927 or visiting our website.