The Houston Dash selected forward Kealia Ohai with the second overall selection in today’s NWSL College Draft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The Dash also selected forward Rafaelle Souza, defender Marissa Diggs and midfielder Jordan Jackson in the club’s first college draft and acquired midfielder Nikki Washington via trade.
Ohai (Full name pronunciation: Kay-Lee-Uh O-Hi) was a first-team All-American and semifinalist for the MAC Hermann trophy in her four-year career at the University of North Carolina. A Draper, Utah native, she helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2012 NCAA national championship as a junior and was named offensive Most Valuable Player of the NCAA College Cup. The 5-foot-5 striker scored 40 goals and tallied 26 assists in 86 career games at Chapel Hill.
"I am so excited about today's draft,” said Dash head coach Randy Waldrum. “I couldn't have asked for things to fall into place so well. It was an amazing day for the Dash. Starting with the selection of Kealia Ohai, we got one of the nation’s best forwards. She has great pace, is extremely athletic, and can really stretch defenses with her speed. She is a proven player at the U-20 and U-23 national team level, and will be a great addition to our team.”
Ohai, 21, helped lead the U.S. U-20 women’s national team to the FIFA U-20 World Cup title in 2012, scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Germany. Ohai was selected as the 2013 Senior CLASS Award winner in NCAA Division I women’s soccer. The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of Division I women’s soccer coaches, national soccer media and fans, is given annually to the most outstanding senior student-athlete in Division I women’s soccer. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – classroom, community, character and competition. At North Carolina, Ohai was a member of North Carolina’s Women’s Soccer Leadership Council and an active participant and veteran leader in the Carolina Leadership Academy program.
“I thought the draft was an outstanding success for us,” said Dash managing director Brian Ching. “We got exactly what we wanted out of it. I think Randy (Waldrum) and Tony (DiCicco) knew exactly what they wanted going into the draft and identified players that fit our needs and will fit our style of play.”
In the second round, the Dash selected Souza out of Ole Miss with the No. 10 overall selection. The Salvador, Brazil native capped her Ole Miss career as the program’s all-time leading goal scorer with 44 goals in 61 career games. Souza enjoyed a prolific final season with the Rebels in 2013, scoring 22 goals (third most in NCAA Division I) and adding six assists as she was named a NSCAA second-team All-American, an All-Southeastern Conference selection and a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy (NCAA national player of the year). The 22-year-old Engineering major was twice named the SEC Soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year, including 2013.
“Things really got crazy when Rafaelle Souza, a Brazilian U-20 national team player fell to us at the No. 10 spot,” reflected Waldrum. “I did not expect her to be available at that time. Souza was the best forward in the SEC the past two years, and has that typical Brazilian flair and creativity to her game. She too was one of the best forwards in the country last year.”
Next, the Dash traded midfielder Meleana Shim to Portland Thorns FC in exchange for the No. 11 overall pick in the draft, which they used to select defender Marissa Diggs out of the University of Central Florida. As part of the trade, Houston also received Portland midfielder Nikki Washington.
Washington, 25, won three NCAA national championships at the University of North Carolina (2006, 2008 and 2009). The Mesquite, Texas native was a member of the U.S. U-23 and U-20 women’s national teams and helped lead the U-18 team to the title at the FIFA U-18 World Cup in 2008. In addition to her professional experience with Thorns FC, Washington has played with Canberra United FC (Australia), Pali Blues (W-League), magicJack (WPS), Boston Breakers (WPS), Chicago Red Stars (WPS), Saint Louis Athletica (WPS) and SkyBlue FC (WPS).
“With the trade, we were able to acquire Nikki Washington, a Texas native, who has played in both the WPS and NWSL,” Waldrum said. “She too has blazing speed, and can play in multiple positions. She's an attacking force that can wreck havoc with defenses.”
Diggs was named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and NSCAA third-team All-American in 2013. A native of Rowlett, Texas, she also earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and NSCAA second-team All-American honors in 2012.
“In addition to Nikki, with the Portland trade, we picked up the No. 11 overall pick and selected another Texas native, Marissa Diggs,” stated Waldrum. “She is an amazing athlete, and is strong, physical, and very athletic. She played center back for the University of Central Florida, but she can also play as a holding midfielder. I had intended on taking Marissa all along, so we walked away today with two additional players that can help us in a big way in Rafaelle and Nikki.”
The Dash selected Jordan in the fourth round (No. 28 overall) out of the University of Nebraska. A native of Overland Park, Kan., Jordan was named Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2013 after scoring nine goals and adding a league-high 12 assists. The 23-year-old was a NSCAA Scholar All-America third-team selection in 2013 and garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors in three seasons.
“Last, but not least, I was shocked when Jordan Jackson fell to us with the first pick in the fourth round,” continued Waldrum. “Jordan played for me with the U-23's and she can play literally anywhere. She is an attacking midfielder from Nebraska and will add versatility to our team, and some attacking prowess out of midfield that we'll need. I was so happy to get Jordan, and she'll reunite with her teammate Ari Romero who also played at Nebraska.”
Ching continued: “We definitely strengthened our team and are going to have an extremely competitive team. A young team, a fast team, and one that’s hungry with players who have been extremely successful. We have a great coach at the helm and March 10 (Training camp opening) can’t come fast enough because we want to see what we have on the field.”
Waldrum added: “It was a great draft for the Houston Dash, and our team really is taking shape now, and I couldn't be more proud of the players we selected. I couldn't have asked for a better first year expansion draft earlier, and now a college draft today. I'm so excited and Dash fans really need to get their season tickets to come watch this exciting team play! Welcome to all the new Dash family members!”
Pronunciation: Kay-Lee-Uh O-Hi
DOB: January 31, 1992
Hometown: Draper, Utah
College: University of North Carolina
How Acquired: Selected in the first round (No. 2 overall) of the 2014 NWSL College Draft
DOB: January 31, 1992
Hometown: Salvador, Brazil
College: Ole Miss
How Acquired: Selected in the second round (No. 10 overall) of the 2014 NWSL College Draft
DOB: April 8, 1992
Hometown: Rowlett, Texas
College: University of Central Florida
How Acquired: Selected in the second round (No. 11 overall) of the 2014 NWSL College Draft
DOB: September 19, 1990
Hometown: Overland Park, Kan.
College: University of Nebraska
How Acquired: Selected in the fourth round (No. 28 overall) of the 2014 NWSL College Draft
DOB: August 1, 1988
Hometown: Mesquite, Texas
College: University of North Carolina
How Acquired: Via trade with Portland Thorns FC