Since the National Women’s Soccer League was founded in 2012, Virginia women’s soccer has had at least one player selected in the draft every year. The Cavaliers are one of only two programs to accomplish this feat, alongside Stanford. Coach Steve Swanson has engineered a system that consistently produces talent, enabling a seamless transition to the next level. This decade of dominance indicates that Virginia is the model collegiate program for women’s soccer players who have their eyes set on playing at the professional level in the United States. With the NWSL playoffs on the horizon, it may be time to brush up on where Virginia alumnae are situated within the league.
San Diego Wave — No. 1 Seed
Currently the top team in the league, the San Diego Wave may as well be called “Cavalier FC”. Midfielder Danielle Colaprio (2011-14), forward Makenzy Doniak (2011-15) and defender Kristen McNabb (2012-16) have all been crucial players for the Wave this season. Colaprico has started every NWSL game this season for the Wave, Doniak has only missed one game of the season and McNabb started every game until picking up an injury in late June.
The former ninth overall pick in 2015, Colaprico has two appearances under her belt for the United States National Women’s Team. Doniak has been a NWSL journeyman, playing for five NWSL teams, an Australian club and a Danish club throughout her career.
Portland Thorns — No. 2 Seed
Perhaps the most well-known Virginia women’s soccer alumna is Becky Sauerbrunn (2003-07). The Portland Thorns center-back is considered one of the best at her position in women's soccer history. While her club career predates the NWSL, she may be better known for her 2012 Olympic gold and two World Cup wins with the US Women’s National Team.
Sauerbrunn missed the 2023 Women’s World Cup with an injury, depriving the USWNT of their original captain. Despite her missed game time this season, Sauerbrunn is expected to be fit for the upcoming matches and playoffs, a boost for what was already a top contender.
Gotham FC — No. 3 Seed
Similar to Sauerbrunn, midfielder Sinead Farrelly’s (2007-10) club career began before the NWSL existed. After hitting her stride with the Portland Thorns from 2014-15, Farrelly’s career seemed to be cut short when she retired from soccer in 2016 after sustaining major injuries in a car accident. Her influence on the NWSL persisted as Farrelly and a former teammate came forward with sexual misconduct and coercion allegations against Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, shocking the soccer world and creating mass change in the NWSL.
Farrelly was working as a barista in California until she signed with Gotham FC at the start of this season, marking her return to soccer after 2,767 days. The move to return instantly paid off as she was called up to Ireland’s squad for the 2023 World Cup.
The 33-year-old is joined by midfielder Taryn Torres (2017-21), who was selected 23rd overall in the 2021 NWSL draft out of Virginia. Unfortunately, Torres is out for the season with a knee injury.
North Carolina Courage — No. 4 Seed
Haley Hopkins (2021-22) was taken 11th overall in the 2023 NWSL Draft to the North Carolina Courage. During her final season with Virginia, Hopkins led the team with 14 goals and tied for second on the team with five assists. Hopkins has been a role player for her club. Hopkins’ first goal and assist in the league came against Gotham FC earlier this September.
Hopkins’ is joined by Brittany Ratcliffe (2012-15), who also plays as a winger for Courage, but has played in fewer games than Hopkins this season.
OL Reign — No. 6 Seed
Emily Sonnett (2012-15) made her case as one of collegiate soccer’s greats during her time at Virginia and was picked number one overall in the 2016 NWSL Draft. The defensive midfielder was called up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and has been a mainstay on the national team since 2015, winning the 2019 World Cup and the NWSL title twice. Her club career even took her to Sweden one season in 2020, a league that has hosted some of the best players in the world.
Other Cavaliers currently on the Reign include Laurel Ivory (2017-21), Phoebe McClernon (2016-19) and Veronica Latsko (2014-17). The Reign are currently in the playoff picture by a razor thin margin and will have to defend their spot in the table as well as aptly as Sonnett can defend on the field.
Houston Dash — No. 8 Seed
Houston has a former sixth overall pick and seventh overall pick out of Virginia, acquiring them through trades. Diana Ordóñez (2019-21) was drafted sixth in the 2022 NWSL Draft by the North Carolina Courage after her legendary college career. Ordóñez’s 45 goals tied for third most all-time at Virginia. Her scoring prowess immediately translated over to the NWSL as the forward broke the NWSL record for goals scored in rookie season, finishing with 11 goals in 19 games. She was traded to the Dash for the 2023 season and currently represents Mexico at the international level.
Courtney Petersen (2015-19) was drafted two years before Ordóñez at pick number seven by the Orlando Pride. She proved to be a mainstay for the Pride in her first two NWSL seasons, playing in 41 games. However, like Ordóñez, she was traded to the Dash for the 2023 season. The Dash will need a top six team to drop points in order to have a chance at playoff qualification.
Angel City FC — No. 9 Seed
Megan Reid (2014-17) declined to partake in the 2018 NWSL Draft after the death of her father, instead pursuing an EMT career after graduating from the University. Gradually working her way back into the sport, she played in the top American amateur league before ending up in the Danish first-tier. Reid accepted an offer from Angel City to play in their inaugural season in the NWSL in 2022. Reid played every minute for Angel City that season and continues to be a key player for the team. Angel City is only three points behind the last playoff spot with a game in hand.
Kansas City Current — No. 12 Seed
Morgan Gautrat (2011-14) was another top pick in the NWSL Draft, just a year before Sonnett. After receiving her first national team call-up at 20 years old, Gautrat was able to lift two World Cup trophies for the United States with Sauerbrunn in 2015 and 2019.
The veteran is joined by rookie Alexa Spaanstra (2018-22), who was selected 10th overall by the Current in the 2023 NWSL Draft. Spaanstra’s time at Virginia featured a spot on the ACC Championship All-Tournament three times, highlighted by her play in the 2022 NCAA quarterfinals run. Spaanstra has been a role player her rookie season, playing in 13 out of Kansas City’s 20 NWSL games, winning a starting post for three of them. Despite sitting at the bottom of the league table, the Current could still qualify by winning out and receiving some luck in other match results.
As the NWSL regular season draws to a close, the playoff field is far from determined. However, former Cavaliers are sure to make their mark down the stretch, a testament to the program’s consistent impact at the pro level.