Boston bound:Breakers select Wenger in NWSL Draft

By on January 24, 2018
Information Warwick grad Liz Wenger (left), who earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors last fall with the Georgetown University wiomen’s soccer team, beats an opponent to the ball. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Sports

Information Warwick grad Liz Wenger (left), who earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors last fall with the Georgetown University women’s soccer team, beats an opponent to the ball. Photo courtesy of Georgetown Sports

Elizabeth Wenger had stopped actively watching the National Women’s Soccer League draft last Thursday.

It seemed safe since there was no chance of her being selected real early anyway.

Or so the 2014 Warwick grad thought.

You can imagine Wenger’s surprise then after the Boston Breakers took her with the seventh pick in the second round, the 17th overall selection.

“I was actually really, really shocked,” Wenger recalled. “I didn’t think I was going to go that early.”

As the draft got underway, Wenger — a senior at Georgetown University — was attending a Courage and World Leadership class. Even though the former Warwick soccer and field hockey star wasn’t hanging on every pick, her friends continued to pay attention via live streaming.

Finally, the moment arrived.

“The girls next to me kinda glanced at the screen and smacked me and that’s how we realized that my name had been called,” Wenger said. “We were trying not to be disruptive, but I think we were anyway. We were watching a very solemn documentary on the civil rights movement.”

Elizabeth is the second member of the Wenger family to join the professional ranks. Her brother, Andrew, was selected by Montreal in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and is currently playing with the Houston Dynamo.

Last Thursday, Andrew was among the many who called to congratulate her.

“He just said good luck. He’s excited for me,” Elizabeth recalled. “My whole family is excited.”

Shortly after she was selected, Wenger talked to Breakers’ coach Matt Beard and general manager Lee Billliard, who welcomed her to Boston.

“(Those talks) were pretty much just introductory,” Wenger said.

The Breakers’ pre-season starts Feb. 19, at which time Wenger will practice with the team for a week and attend meetings. Then Boston will hold its pre-season camp in the first week of March.

As Georgetown coach Dave Nolan explained, though, there’s no guarantee that draft selections in the NWSL will get signed.

“In this league, the draft picks are usually, to an extent, wild cards,” Nolan said. “I think many of those teams, even if they draft three or four picks and bring in two or three tryout kids or free agents, they usually only have one or two spots for those kids. It’s up to Lizzy now to go up there when she goes up in February to prove that what she brings to the table is worth their investment.”

If not in Boston, however, Wenger could also hook on with another team. In addition to the Boston Breakers, who play their home games at Harvard University, the 10-team NWSL consists of the Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, FC Kansas City, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Portland Thorns, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, and Washington Spirit.

“She’s going up excited for the opportunity, she’s going up in a positive frame of mind, but also with the understanding there’s no guarantees,” Nolan said, “and we’re also exploring other options for her overseas or if she doesn’t make it with Boston, there’s still always the opportunity in the second week (of March) maybe to have a look at another team who may be looking for a defender.”

Until then, it will be business as usual at Georgetown, where Wenger, a marketing major, plans to get her degree in May.

Although the Breakers’ season will start in April, Wenger, regardless of whether she signs, intends to finish the spring semester. If she earns a spot on Boston’s roster, her early-season schedule with the team would have to be ironed out.

“I’m definitely finishing school and they know that,” she said. “We’re going to work something out, but it hasn’t been determined yet.”

Wenger had been looking into marketing jobs, but she is now going to put that on the back-burner.

“Recruiting really starts to heat up in March and April, so I don’t have anything set in stone,” she said. “I am putting that off, obviously, but I didn’t have anything in the works at the moment.”

Making herself eligible for the NWSL draft prior to her senior year was never an option.

“Degree first, pro career second — in my house, anyway,” Wenger said.

Even when she finally signed up after Christmas, she didn’t have her hopes sky high. Despite being a three-time All-Big East honoree and a Second-Team All-American in her senior year, Wenger didn’t know if she was on any team’s radar.

“I always considered it a longshot for me to be drafted,” she said. “That sounds weird for me to say, but I hadn’t considered it seriously because I didn’t expect that anyone would have any interest in me. But I put my name in the draft anyway because who knows? And it turned out really well.”

Her career with the Hoyas turned out really well too. A center back, Wenger led her team in minutes played, helping the Georgetown women advance to the NCAA Division-One Tournament’s first round last November. Along the way, they claimed the Big East regular-season and championship titles for the first time in program history.

Nolan described Wenger’s two best attributes as being her defensive instincts and speed.

“She’s an incredible athlete and she’s gifted with tremendous pace. She had to be one of the fastest defenders in the country this year,” Nolan said. “Defense and speed usually go hand-in-hand if it’s going well. So that was the first thing. The second thing is she reads the game very well, and typically when she makes a decision, it tends to be the right one. The beauty is then, if on the rarest occasions it’s wrong, she has a recovery speed that can bail her out of so many problems.”

That speed was on display often last fall, impressing the voters who named her Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

No doubt, she will leave Georgetown’s campus happy with her career in the nation’s capital.

“Oh, for sure,” Wenger said, “and not just individually, but my whole class and the way the program has evolved has been awesome to be a part of.”

Now, of course, she is hoping to be a part of the Breakers’ future plans. A few of Wenger’s friends with ties to Boston are already giving her restaurant recommendations and other tips.

“I honestly don’t know much, but all of my friends from Boston here have been telling me about it. All good things, obviously,” Wenger said. “I have two or three teammates from the Boston area and they were telling me about the whole vibe of the city.”

Sports are a big part of the Boston vibe, which might mean an adjustment for her. Although she doesn’t really follow one team in hoops or football, Wenger has become a fan of Washington’s baseball team.

“I’ve become partial to the Nationals,” Wenger admitted. “Living in D.C. for four years has rubbed off on me.”

Soccer, though, is her main focus and she’s grateful to get an opportunity with the Breakers.

“I’m excited,” Wenger said.

 

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