Nearly one year ago, the Western New York Flash left the Philadelphia Convention Center very pleased with the results of its 2015 NWSL Draft and, this year, all but the venue was the same.
On Friday, the Flash selected five players in the 2016 NWSL College Draft, all of who have U.S. Youth National Team experience and strong collegiate resumes.
“I’m extremely pleased with the results of our draft,” said Flash General Manager Rich Randall following the ceremony. “Our coaching and technical staff did a fantastic job preparing us and I feel that we’ve covered a lot of our needs for this season.”
“I think we hit a little bit of a snag with our projections, what we thought we were going to have and how we structured things but, as it went on, a couple players dropped to us that we didn’t think we would be able to get,” said Technical Director Charlie Naimo. “So, overall, I think it ended up being a really good day for us.”
The Flash selected midfielder Michaela Hahn with its first pick of the draft at No. 9, before opening the second round by taking forwards Makenzy Doniak at No. 11 and Mallory Weber at No. 14. Western New York held two picks in the third round, taking defender Laura Liedle at No. 24 and closing the day by selecting goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom at No. 26.
“We weren’t looking at formations; we were looking at areas of the field where we have coverage, so to speak,” Naimo said of the club’s strategy. “I think we have depth in every position now. Now we have some versatility that we can play with and I’m excited. I think we’re in a better place now than we were a year ago. “
Over her four years at Florida State, Hahn did not miss a single collegiate match as she played in all 103 games, second-most in FSU history. In 2014, the Florida native helped guide the Seminoles to its first-ever NCAA Division I Championship, and provided the game-winning assist during the semifinal match.
The midfielder was named All-ACC and NSCAA All-Southeast Region after her senior season where she led Florida State to its third-straight ACC Championship.
“There’s no question to me that Michaela Hahn can come in and play. No question. If you play in the ACC and you survive the ACC with the records and the wins she has, playing under Mark Krikorian, you’re battle tested,” Naimo said. “Everyone brings their A-game when they play against Florida State so she’s played under pressure and she can handle it.”
Doniak, 21, was one of the top-rated forwards in the 2016 draft after breaking nearly every scoring record at the University of Virginia. A three-time NSCAA All-American, Doniak was named a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist in both 2013 and 2014.
In her junior season, Doniak posted a college-high 51 points, the most scored in any single season by a Cavalier. In her senior year, the California native became the school’s all-time leader in points (164) and goals (64). Her eight points on November 11, 2014 against Kentucky also rank as a UVA high.
“We’re shocked that we were able to get Makenzy,” Naimo said. “She’s physical enough and has proven to be a goal scorer at the international level and the ACC, so she’s going to be able to impact as well.”
Weber and Eckerstrom both come to the Flash on the heels of Penn State’s first Championship title.
Weber, a native of Michigan, finished her career with the Nittany Lions with 101 points over 100 matches. The forward is a two-time All-Big Ten honoree and was also named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team in 2012.
“Whatever role we give Mallory, we know Mallory is certainly a kid that plays with tremendous heart and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to find a way to help the team,” Naimo commented.
The keeper, Eckerstrom, co-captained Penn State to the NCAA Championship after winning the Big Ten Championship, where she was named Defensive Player of the Tournament and to the All-Big Ten Tournament team. With 22 wins in 2015, Eckerstrom tied the school’s single-season win record, and also held a 0.46 goals against average that year.
“Britt Eckerstrom is a great goalkeeper,” Naimo added. “We’re extremely confident that Britt will challenge for games and potentially the number one role.”
Between the two Penn State selections, the Flash selected its only defender of the draft, Laura Liedle. Starting in all but one game of her collegiate career, the Stanford product helped lead the Cardinal to two College Cup appearances over her tenure. From the backline, Liedle posted 13 assists and guided the defense to 49 clean sheets over the four years.
“Liedle has a great opportunity to come in and challenge for that right back role,” said Naimo. “We think they all can come in and get time. I don’t think we have a player on this roster that I can’t see playing.”
The five draft picks will join Western New York for preseason in March before beginning the 2016 NWSL season the next month. Weber and Doniak have both been called into the U.S. U-23 Women's National Team's upcoming camp at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif. The U23's will face the Republic of Ireland on January 25 in Los Angeles.
Tickets for the 2016 WNY Flash home season are now on sale for as little as $100. For more information or to purchase, visit wnyflash.com or call (585) 944-6995.
Birthdate: April 19, 1994
Hometown: Titusville, Fla.
College: Florida State University
Birthdate: February 25, 1994
Hometown: Chino Hills, Calif.
College: University of Virginia
Birthdate: April 4, 1994
Hometown: Novi, Mich.
College: Penn State University
Birthdate: March 11, 1994
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
College: Stanford University
Birthdate: May 28, 1993
Hometown: Germantown, Md.
College: Penn State University