Oct. 5, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. -
Former Northern Illinois women's soccer players Jestina Orlando and Christie Ehrhardt participated in the W-League draft combine for Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), Sept. 24-27, in hopes of playing professional soccer in the United States.
Orlando and Ehrhardt were among 76 elite athletes invited to participate in the combine in Tampa, Fla. Orlando graduated Northern Illinois in 2009, and played with the Huskies during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. In her two seasons as a Huskie, Orlando ranked among the top performers in points, goals, assists, and shots each year. Orlando now plays with the Colorado Force out of Fort Collins, Colo.
Joining Orlando in the W-League combine was former four-year letterwinner and Huskie Scholar Ehrhardt. Ehrhardt is currently in her second season with the NIU women's soccer coaching staff, and plays with the W-League's Chicago Red Eleven team.
In addition to Orlando and Ehrhardt there are also other current Huskies that compete with teams in the W-League, which is the longest standing women's league in North America. The United Soccer League is the highest level of women's soccer in both the United States and Canada.
Both Orlando and Ehrhardt were each a part of the select few women's soccer players invited to compete in the W-League draft combine for the WPS.
"After our players exhaust their eligibility at NIU, I hope we get more and more players striving to reach the next level of play," head women's soccer coach Carrie Barker said. "This helps our program gain national recognition. Jess and Christie have a lot of passion for the game and they are helping our future Huskies understand this process of one day being a professional athlete."
The WPS's mission is to be the premiere women's soccer league in the in the world, and the global standard by which women's professional sports are measured.
When launched in 2009, WPS included seven teams based out of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis and Washington D.C. The league is expanding for the 2010 season, including Philadelphia and Atlanta in its plans for expansion.
The elite players invited to the combine have the chance to showcase their talent to WPS, and other professional scouts and coaches.
"Before this experience, I knew I wanted to play professional soccer, but after being there it makes me really see that I would do anything to play professionally," said Orlando. "This experience made me only want to work harder so that I can have the chance to play soccer professionally."
The four-day event at the Tampa Bay's Hellenics Ed Radice Sports Complex, included 70 W-League players that were split into six teams with each player at the combine competing in one 70-minute contest per day.
"The combine is definitely an experience you cannot prepare for until you get there," said Orlando. "We faced awesome competition. There were around 70 girls there, and everyone competed on the next level. Everyone there was so serious, it made me work harder."
In 2008, 35 W-league players were drafted into the WPS from the combine. With the WPS expansion for the 2010 season, it is expected that the league will look to the W-league to add players to its teams.
"Not many people know about NIU's soccer program nationally," said Orlando. "I think by Christie and me being out there competing shows NIU players that soccer doesn't just have to end when you graduate. I think it will be awesome to get NIU's name and program out there on a national level."
For more information on the WPS visit : www.womensprosoccer.com.