Pac-12 women’s soccer will be well represented at the next level.
The top four picks in the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft on Thursday morning all hailed from the Pac-12, one of which was junior forward Ashley Sanchez of UCLA women’s soccer. Sanchez, who gave up her final year of college eligibility by entering the draft, was selected by the Washington Spirit as the No. 4 overall pick.
As a Bruin, Sanchez set the school record for most career assists in just three years with 42 and has set or tied six other assist-related program records in her time at UCLA. She was named an All-American and a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist in 2018.
Sanchez spent December participating in the United States Women’s National Team’s camp in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but has since been cut from the training roster.
Joining Sanchez in the pros is redshirt senior forward Chloe Castaneda, who was drafted as the No. 22 overall pick by the Houston Dash.
Castaneda scored six goals and 16 points in her final year with the Bruins – both career-highs – and all 16 came in the last eight games of the season. She also scored UCLA’s only goal in its NCAA 2019 Division I Women’s College Cup semifinal match against Stanford.
Senior defender Kaiya McCullough joined Sanchez in the nation’s capital when the Spirit selected her with the No. 32 overall pick. The second-team All-Pac-12 honoree started the last 76 consecutive games of her UCLA career, making 92 career starts, tied for fifth-most in program history.
Other Bruins registered as potential draft options were senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah and redshirt senior forward Anika Rodriguez.
Neither was selected, and they will have to look elsewhere to continue their careers. Micah, however, is currently a member of the Australian National Team roster that will compete in the 2020 Olympics.
The draft’s top-three picks were Stanford’s Sophia Smith, Washington State’s Morgan Weaver and Colorado’s Taylor Kornieck. Eleven of the 36 total draft picks were from the Pac-12.
Even after the draft, some players may decide to seek opportunities abroad. The NWSL slate will start in April for those who choose to stay domestic.