Even in the midst of a successful college career on the University of Florida women’s soccer team, Holly King wasn’t exactly sure what the future held for her.
Unlike the Gator basketball and football players, the most viable option for King to play professionally rested overseas. She also possessed a strong desire to enter teaching with her elementary education degree.
King’s plans somewhat changed with the formation of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2012 during her senior year. But with play set for this April and her graduation date not until May, the talented midfielder figured January’s inaugural draft would come and go without her.
Then the Washington Spirit came calling.
“I was pretty surprised,” said King, who was selected with the second pick of the third round (19th overall). “Knowing the league was new and that a lot of girls had left school early to have an open schedule, I thought the draft wasn’t an option for me because I still wasn’t done with school.”
But the Spirit saw a strong player who had earned the 2009 Spring All-Met Player of the Year award at Broad Run as well as SEC Defensive Player of the Year and third-team all-America honors this past fall at Florida. In turn, King worked with her teachers and advisors to finish her final semester sooner.
The effort made for a whirlwind few months. After missing a good chunk of the preseason, King was officially signed by the Spirit on April 26, just in time for the team’s third game. Then, while the Spirit took on Portland, King traveled back to Gainesville on May 4 for her graduation, where she was one of just six students to receive the Outstanding Leadership Award. The 22-year-old’s first in-game action came last Thursday, when the Spirit (1-3-3) earned their first victory against Seattle.
“It’s been pretty crazy, but I was fortunate that the league came up when I was finishing school,” King said. “If I hadn’t been drafted, I would have finished school and maybe after I graduated, I would have talked to some coaches about opportunities in the league if spots came up open because of injuries. But it worked out, and although I missed a lot of the preseason, it’s been a great experience and a lot of fun.”
Aiding her transition was the presence of several players from her club and high school soccer days. Along with King, five other Washington Spirit players have D.C. area roots in Ali Krieger (the 2003 All-Met Player of the Year at Forest Park), Tiffany McCarty (the 2007 All-Met Player of the Year at St. John’s), Caroline Miller (2007 first-team All-Met at Walter Johnson), Julia Roberts (2007 first-team All-Met at Urbana) and Kika Toulouse (2006 second-team All-Met at O’Connell)
“I knew Julia and Caroline well from playing travel ball and ODP when we were growing up,” said King, who commutes from her parents’ home in Ashburn to the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds. “With everything going on, I’ve been working to find my role with the team, so having them here has made for an easier transition.”
It also helps that the Spirit play a possession-oriented style similar to the system that King thrived within at Florida. The 5-foot-9 midfielder’s strengths of passing, sticking tackles and winning air balls with her height should lead to more playing time as the season progresses.
Just as important for the team is garnering support for the NWSL during its inaugural campaign. Along with using community events to connect with soccer fans young and old, King said players often wear their Spirit gear during off days to drum up conversation about the league, which currently has eight teams.
When the season ends in August, King will return to the same place it all started: Gainesville. There, she will enroll in Florida’s School of Teaching and Learning to pursue her master’s degree in education through a one-year program.
“Some players will be going overseas, some have national team obligations and some rookies who left school early for the league are going back to school, so we’ll all be busy,” King said. “I’m just excited to be a part of the team and have a chance to grow the league and the whole soccer community.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 3
State track titles held by Episcopal junior sprinter Cristeen Anyanwu following her victory in the 100 meters at Saturday’s Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association championship.
—Sherwood beat Howard, 17-14, in the Maryland 4A/3A semifinal, becoming the first Montgomery County girls’ lacrosse team to win a state tournament game. On the boys’ side, South River beat Howard to secure a repeat trip to Wednesday’s state final.
–On the other side of the Maryland 4A/3A state lacrosse bracket, Ellie McNulty netted seven goals to lead Broadneck to a victory against Catonsville. In the boys’ competition, Westminster beat Churchill in the Maryland 4A/3A state semis for the second straight season.
–National Cathedral used a walk-off RBI single by Ellie Frank to beat Maret, 3-2, in the inaugural DCSAA softball championship.
–The Madison girls’ rowing team captured its first Stotesbury Cup title while Gonzaga’s boys repeated in Saturday’s prestigious regatta in Philadelphia.
–The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys’ championship track meet ended in a rare tie, with DeMatha and McNamara each taking a share of the title. Meantime, Elizabeth Seton won its seventh straight WCAC crown in decisive fashion.
–Georgetown Prep cruised to the Interstate Athletic Conference baseball crown, beating Landon, 10-0, in six innings by mercy rule.
–Courtney Colosimo’s go-ahead triple lifted River Hill to a 6-5 victory against Mount Hebron in the Maryland 3A East Region softball final.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes at Landon, 5 p.m.
Landon looks to repeat as IAC boys’ lacrosse champs. The Bears have won their last six games, including a 4-2 win against St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes on April 26.