The Washington Spirit earned the first-overall pick in the 2018 NWSL College Draft after finishing last in the league in 2017. The team, after finishing 2016 with a championship run before losing to the Western New York Flash in the finals, completely dismantled their starting roster during the 2017 off-season. Fortune shone upon the Spirit, though, when young phenom, Mallory Pugh, decided to leave college early and join the NWSL. The Spirit had traded for the first slot in the allocation system and were therefore gifted a US Women's National Team player halfway through the season.
Just before the draft, which occurred on Thursday, January 18, the Spirit made a pair of trades to upgrade their draft position and their team. First, they traded Lindsay Agnew and the sixth pick in the draft, a pick they received from Chicago for Kristie Mewis, to the Houston Dash for the third-overall selection. The Spirit also traded the rights to Crystal Dunn, who had gone to England to ostensibly avoid playing 2017 with the Spirit, and an international roster slot to the North Carolina Courage in exchange for defender Taylor Smith and 2017 Rookie of the Year forward Ashley Hatch.
Before the draft started, the Spirit had already acquired significantly upgraded players, and they were sitting on two of the top three draft selections.
Andi Sullivan, Stanford University
Stanford University midfielder Andi Sullivan waited until the last possible moment to register for the draft, but there was never any doubt that she would be the first selection when she finally made that decision. The Spirit originally acquired the first spot in the Allocated Player waiver system in case Sullivan left college early to become a professional athlete, but they ended up with both Sullivan and Pugh as a result. Sullivan, who won the MAC Hermann Trophy in her senior season and was topdrawersoccer.com's top overall prospect, has already become a regular call-up for the US Senior Women's National Team, playing in seven games during 2016 and 2017. She helped Stanford win the NCAA College Cup in 2017, scoring the second of three goals in the 3-2 win over Jessie Fleming and the UCLA Bruins. Sullivan scored 20 goals and registered 19 assists during her four years at Stanford, and she should be ready for professional level play from day one with all of her national team experience. It's hard to go wrong with the first-overall selection, but Sullivan is a rare talent even at the top of the draft.
Rebecca Quinn, Duke University
Duke University midfielder Rebecca Quinn, like Sullivan, is a home run of a pick for the Spirit with the third-overall selection in the draft. A Canadian Senior Women's National Team player, Quinn has registered an astounding 33 international appearances with the senior team at the age of 22, including three goals scored. The great benefit of adding players with national team experience is that they are accustomed to the speed of professional-level soccer, and the fact that Quinn played for Canada in the 2016 Rio Olympics just adds to that experience. For Duke, Quinn scored three goals and earned four assists during her senior year, helping Duke reach the semifinals of the NCAA Women's Soccer tournament. Duke was beaten in penalty kicks of a 0-0 draw by UCLA in the first round of the College Cup. Quinn should be a plug-and-play midfielder for the Spirit, who suddenly have an impressive international presence of Pugh, Sullivan, and Quinn in the center of the park.
Schuyler DeBree, Duke University
With the first pick in the second round, the Spirit went back to Duke to grab defender Schuyler DeBree. An excellent defender during her career with the Blue Devils, DeBree also showed the ability to transition into an offensive role, scoring one goal and adding three assists during her senior season. She adds U-20 national team experience to her resume, which should help her quickly adjust to the speed of the professional game. DeBree should challenge the current Spirit back line for a starting spot, but would at least be an excellent substitute player until she is ready to start.
Mallory Eubanks, Mississippi State University
With their second selection in the second round, 16th overall, the Washington Spirit selected forward Mallory Eubanks out of Mississippi State. Eubanks had a strong collegiate career, tallying eight goals and 17 assists across her 70 appearances on the pitch. She started every game in which she played. Eubanks projects to challenge for a starting spot up top next to Ashley Hatch, although Cheyna Williams and the rest of the Spirit forwards might be tough to overcome early in her career.
Brittany Basinger, Penn State University
With the 21st overall pick, the Spirit selected Penn State defender Brittany Basinger, who finished her senior season with the Nittany Lions with one goal and three assists. Basinger will challenge for a starting spot on a defense that struggled to contain opponents during the 2017 NWSL season, and she should have the fitness necessary to play at the professional level after playing the ninth-most minutes in Penn State history (7,038), and her defense recorded 17 shutouts during the 2017 season.
Maddie Huster, Wake Forest University
With their third-round selection, the Spirit brought a family together by selecting Wake Forest midfielder Maddie Huster; sister of Spirit midfielder Tori Huster. Maddie Huster scored four goals and added two assists in her senior season, and she earned second-team All-ACC honors. With the current stacked Spirit midfield, it might be hard for Huster to find a starting spot, but she should get some minutes off the bench as a reserve player.
Rachel Moore, The College of William and Mary
The Spirit selected William and Mary midfielder Rachel Moore with their final pick of the draft, 31st overall. Moore scored four goals and notched five assists in her senior season and finished her collegiate career with 20 goals and 18 assists. The Spirit certainly hope that the impressive numbers translate tot he professional level, but midfield will be a tough position for a new player to fit on the Spirit.