ROOKIE SPOTLIGHT: Stephanie Verdoia

(July 15, 2015)if someone had told Stephanie Verdoia five years ago that she’d be drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NWSL draft and playing professional soccer, she wouldn’t have believed them.

- By Katie Peverada

(July 15, 2015)During her four years at Seattle University, Stephanie Verdoia scored 51 goals, notched 30 assists, and was a two-time Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Verdoia, the Redhawks career leader in goals (51) and points (132), has also seen time with the U.S. U-23 Women’s National Team. Back in high school, the Salt Lake City native was the 2010-11 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year. Verdoia was the first-ever Seattle University female student-athlete drafted by a United States professional sports league.

Yet, despite her accomplishments on the pitch, if someone had told Verdoia five years ago that she’d be drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NWSL draft and playing professional soccer, she wouldn’t have believed them.

“I would have said ‘Stop lying to me and getting my hopes up,’” Verdoia said. “I can’t say that I didn’t envision it and work towards it, but it was still a shock when it happened.”

Jumping from college to the pros – for any athlete in any sport – can be a different kind of shock, and Verdoia’s situation was no exception.

In January, when the Breakers selected Verdoia with the 29th pick in the 2015 NWSL College Draft, she had to prepare for the daunting move across the country – in the middle of the semester – from a place where the temperatures in the winter hover around 50 degrees and a team she had known for four years, to a place that was having record snowfalls and one that she was unfamiliar with.

Stephanie Verdoia meets the media on draft day

Verdoia, a Capital One Academic All-American award winner in college who hopes to attend law school in the future, had to finish up her finals during preseason (“It was probably one of the hardest weeks of my life,” she said) while simultaneously adjusting to life on the East Coast. But Verdoia has enjoyed getting to know her new teammates and going out with them and getting to know the city. It was the on-field transition that was the most difficult one to make.

“Soccer was definitely the hardest part,” Verdoia said. “Off the field, the girls and the staff made it really easy to feel welcome, but the speed of play and just the physicality of the soccer was a much bigger step.”

The 5-foot, 6-inch midfielder has seen time in five of the club’s 11 games, including a start against the Houston Dash on April 26 in which she played 58 minutes. She also sees time with the Boston Breakers Reserves, who play in the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL).

Stephanie Verdoia in her professional debut vs. the Houston Dash (Photo By Mike Gridley)

“I definitely feel like I’m still in the learning process,” Verdoia said. “I’m trying to do my best, whether it’s (if) they throw me in for five minutes and be the hardest worker and don’t make a mistake.”

Right now, she sees her role for the in-contention Breakers as someone who can fill in wherever and whenever she’s needed. Boston sits in eighth place in the standings, but the team’s 11 points have them one win away from jumping up to a tie for the fourth place and final playoff spot. If at some point Verdoia is called upon to contribute, she’ll be ready.

“If they need someone to be there and be positive, then I’ll try and be that person,” Verdoia said. “I’m not necessarily a leader yet by any means, but I just want to be someone that people always can rely on to be a hard worker and a good teammate.”

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