New Jersey Club Takes USC Duo in Opening Round
Sky Blue FC selected a pair of defenders from the 2016 NCAA College Cup champion University of Southern California in the first round of the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) College Draft on Thursday, taking Kayla Mills at no. 4 overall before selecting her defensive running mate Mandy Freeman at no. 10 overall. The New Jersey club then made four more selections over the remaining three rounds, where it selected Clemson goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan (no. 23 overall), Rutgers forward Madison Tiernan (no. 24 overall), Clemson midfielder Catrina Atanda (no. 30 overall) and Boston College forward McKenzie Meehan (no. 34 overall).
“It is fantastic to have been able to draft both Kayla Mills and Mandy Freeman in the first round,” said Christy Holly, Sky Blue FC head coach. “They are two players we identified as far back as September. We knew they had great personalities in addition to possessing fantastic qualities both on and off the field. They each fit into the dynamic that we have already established with the club and what we are looking to build upon. We are delighted to bring in these two national champions, and we are very excited about what they will bring to our club.”
Kayla Mills was named the 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and received All-Pac-12 First Team accolades this past fall while helping Southern California to the NCAA College Cup championship. The West Covina, Calif. native had an outstanding tournament and was named to the All-College Cup Team. Additionally, Mills has been a regular within the U.S. Youth National Team system, and she most recently participated in a U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team camp the past week alongside her now Sky Blue FC teammate Erica Skroski.
Mandy Freeman was selected as the 2016 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for her efforts in co-anchoring the Southern California back line to the NCAA College Cup. The West Palm Beach, Fla. native was twice named to the Pac-12 First Team, including her recent senior campaign. Additionally, she received NSCAA All-America Second Team accolades in 2016. Currently a member of the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team, Freeman helped the American side win the Istria Cup last March, playing alongside Skroski in that tournament.
Kailen Sheridan made her debut for the Canada Women’s National Team in March 2016, and she has been a member of their youth program since she was 15-years-old. Before arriving at the senior team, the Ontario native played for the U-17, U-20 and U-23 sides. While backstopping the Clemson Tigers, Sheridan made 76 appearances, recording 229 saves and 28 shutouts. The Canada international received an NSCAA All-America Third Team nod in 2015 while also receiving All-ACC honors after each of her four seasons at Clemson.
A native of Voorhees, N.J., Madison Tiernan played three seasons alongside former Rutgers and now Sky Blue FC teammate Erica Skroski before leading the Scarlet Knights with 28 points on 11 goals and six assists this past fall. After her senior campaign, she was named to the NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region Second Team, as well receiving All-Big Ten Second Team accolades. For her collegiate career, Tiernan left her imprint on the Rutgers record books, finishing second in shots (275), fifth in game-winning goals (9), sixth in goals (25) and seventh in points (66).
Catrina Atanda played in front of Sheridan at Clemson University, and the Belle Mead, N.J. native now heads back home to the Garden State, where she won four state championships with Sky Blue FC development academy partner PDA. This past fall, she paced the Clemson attack with a team-leading 12 goals and four assists, helping the team to a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA College Cup. Additionally, she received an NSCAA All-America Third Team nod, All-ACC First Team honors, as well as being selected to the Top Drawer Soccer Best XI Third Team. For her college career, Atanda recorded 30 goals, good enough for eighth all-time in Clemson history.
McKenzie Meehan was a strong offensive playmaker while attending Boston College, finishing her collegiate career as their all-time leader in points (124) and goals (58). Additionally, she recorded the best mark in Boston College history for a single season when she tallied 20 goals as a sophomore. She finished off her senior campaign this past fall with an All-ACC First Team selection, leading Boston College in points (26), goals (12), shots (88) and shots on goal (45).
“We are absolutely delighted with every one of the picks that we made today,” Holly concluded. “The strength and depth that we added to an already talented roster is something that gives us some very exciting prospects for the 2017 season. We feel that every player we selected fits into the culture and foundation of our club, and we cannot wait to get everyone into New Jersey so we can get started on what will surely be a fantastic season.”
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