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NWSL 2022 mock draft 2.0: How every team could draft in Round 1

Stanford’s Naomi Girma is the No. 1 pick of the 2022 NWSL College Draft. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The NWSL announced the list of draft-eligible players for Saturday’s event, and as a result, the second and final mock draft looks very different from our first edition last week.

Florida State’s Jaelin Howell is still expected to go No. 1 overall after she officially declared for the draft, but she’s the only player from the 2021 national champions making the jump at this time. Several other NCAA stars from the fall season are either returning for their extra year of eligibility or keeping their name out of the draft.

Before the College Draft kicks off at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, here is the second and final NWSL first-round mock draft for Just Women’s Sports.

1. San Diego Wave FC

Jaelin Howell, M, Florida State

Howell wrapped up a decorated college career at Florida State with a second national championship and First Team All-American honor as a senior. The 2020 MAC Hermann Trophy winner started 21 games this year as a holding midfielder, leading a group that recorded 23 shutouts and adding two goals and four assists (not to mention the game-winner in the NCAA semifinals). She should compete for minutes right away with the expansion club.

2. Racing Louisville FC

Naomi Girma, D, Stanford

The three-year Stanford captain would bring immediate steadiness and leadership to Racing Louisville’s backline. Girma has the skill level and experience to help a young Louisville team that gave up 40 goals last season, the most in the NWSL. The two-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year won a national championship with Stanford in 2019 and has been a part of the U.S. youth system for years, serving as captain of the U20 team and winning the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year award in 2020.

3. North Carolina Courage

Mia Fishel, F, UCLA

Declaring early for the draft, Fishel wrapped up her junior season at UCLA with back-to-back United Soccer Coaches All-American honors. In 59 games, she scored 32 goals and added 14 assists, moving into the Bruins’ top 10 all-time goal scorers in just three seasons. With the No. 3 pick, the Courage can add a young player with upside who can develop behind returning attackers Lynn Williams, Amy Rodriguez and Jessica McDonald.

4. Racing Louisville FC

Emily Gray, M, Virginia Tech

With several top-end players heading back to school, Gray becomes one of the best midfield prospects available. She had an excellent senior season this fall, scoring 12 goals and adding eight assists for the Hokies, meaning she was involved in nearly half of her team’s goals. While she may not provide that kind of attacking punch at the pro level, Gray’s ability to connect through the midfield makes her a good fit for Louisville.

5. Orlando Pride

Sydny Nasello, F, South Florida

After the Pride hired Amanda Cromwell from the college ranks, what they do with their first-round draft pick is going to be fascinating to watch. While Nasello is no replacement for Alex Morgan, she’s a wide attacker who can play along flank and she improves the team’s depth across the forward line. Coming from USF, she’ll be a known commodity to Orlando’s technical staff.

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Diana Ordoñez competes for the U.S. women's U20 team. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

6. Houston Dash

Diana Ordoñez, F, Virginia

Ordoñez announced in late November that she would forgo her final year of college eligibility and declare for the NWSL Draft as a junior. Her stock might never be higher after she finished the 2021 season second in the NCAA with 18 goals and first with eight game-winning goals, earning her the ACC Offensive Player of the Year award and a First Team All-American nod. A Houston team that just missed out on the playoffs in 2021 could use Ordoñez’s scoring punch. It would also be a homecoming of sorts for the Texas native.

7. North Carolina Courage

Caitlin Cosme, CB, Duke

As an anchor for one of the top defenses in the country this fall, Cosme capped an excellent career in Durham by leading the team in minutes played with 1,829 and scoring three goals. Listed at 5-foot-5, she plays bigger than her size and has the versatility to play on the flanks or as a defensive midfielder if not centrally.

8. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Sydney Cummings, CB, Georgetown

After a decorated career at Brown, Cummings transferred to Georgetown and was the Big East Defender of the Year this past season. She helped lead one of the best defenses in the country and has the skills and ability to slot into Gotham’s competitive backline. As a bonus, she’s a local product from New Jersey.

9. San Diego Wave FC

Raleigh Loughman, CM, Michigan

The San Diego native makes a lot of sense for the expansion club’s ninth pick. Loughman enjoyed a stellar fall season in front of goal, scoring nine goals and adding nine assists on a talented Michigan team. The lone player from the squad to declare for the draft, Loughman will likely fill a depth role at the next level. Her ability to cope with the defensive and possession responsibilities with her new team will determine her success, but she has the quality to make it happen.

10. OL Reign

Savannah DeMelo, CM, USC

After suffering an Achilles tear and missing the 2019 season, DeMelo returned for both the spring and fall campaigns this year, playing a total of 34 matches in 2021. Primarily an attacking midfielder, she can also play out on the left or in a deeper role. This past fall, USC deployed her in a variety of ways, including as a striker. Carving out a clear role and playing for a team that values the ball will be important for her chances as a pro, and she would be a good fit in the Pacific Northwest.

11. Chicago Red Stars

Julie Doyle, F, Santa Clara

While Doyle didn’t play the fall season after using her final year of eligibility in the spring, she’s included on the draft list and is a strong candidate to go in the first round. She spent the fall training and playing in England and is a forward who can play either on the wing or underneath a lone striker. The Red Stars can add a quality player here with the ability to step in immediately and compete for minutes.

12. Kansas City Current

Izzy Rodriguez, LB, Ohio State

There’s no such thing as too much outside back depth, and with plenty already on the roster, the Current can go in a number of different directions to close out the first round. Rodriguez was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in the spring, wrapping up her career in Columbus with 88 appearances. If she can handle the jump in attacking quality out wide, she’s a very solid backup to Hailie Mace on the left side. A case could be made to even try her centrally as a left center back.

Travis Clark is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering college soccer and the NWSL Draft. He is also the Director of Content at Top Drawer Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @travismclark.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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