Canadian Victoria Pickett, a star midfielder at the University of Wisconsin, looks to take the next step in her soccer career Wednesday evening at the NWSL draft.
Badgers coach Paula Wilkins, for one, believes the 24-year-old former Canadian youth international has the talent to make it in the pro ranks.
"I do, with her athleticism, her ability to defend and track people down," Wilkins said. "Technically she's a very good player but I think her athleticism is something in the pro level that will help her be successful."
Wilkins also cites Pickett's ability to beat people off the dribble.
"In the women's game that's something that is pretty important and a skill set that not a lot of people have," she said.
Pickett, a native of Barrie, Ont., played 57 games for the Badgers with five goals and 11 assists over the 2015, '17 and '18 seasons. She was a 2018 MAC Hermann semifinalist and First Team All-American.
Pickett, who was part of Canada's team at the 2015 Pan-American Games, has been training with the Badgers after missing the entire 2019 season with a knee injury suffered during a tackle in a spring game,.
Named Big Ten Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2015, she redshirted in 2016 to be part of Canada's team at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea. She also wore Canadian colours at the 2012 FIFA U-17 World Cup and 2014 U-20 World Cup.
Wilkins calls Pickett a student of the game who is both resilient and tactically aware.
"She watches a lot of film to get better and she's able to take information in and process it," said Wilkins.
Ottawa's Clarissa Larisey, a forward at the University of Memphis, is also registered for Wednesday's draft.
The five-foot-four senior scored 31 goals and added 16 assists in 62 games with the Tigers. She scored 16 goals in 21 games in 2019.
On Tuesday, the league released a list of 49 players registered for the draft. However. more will be available after a rule change that makes eligible all players who have exhausted three years of intercollegiate soccer eligibility prior to the 2020-2021 academic year.
Expansion Racing Louisville FC has the first overall pick as well as the fifth selection obtained in an October trade with the Chicago Red Stars. Sky Blue FC has three first-round picks.
The Washington Spirit pick second with Sky Blue going third and fourth. After Louisville, Chicago has the sixth selection, followed by Portland, Sky Blue, Orlando and North Carolina.
With the pandemic wiping out collegiate play in 2020, it's a draft like no others.
Catarina Macario, a Brazilian-born star midfielder at Stanford, has already signed with French powerhouse Lyon. Macario is a two-time winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy as the best U.S. college player.
Another name with star power is Trinity Rodman, daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman. Canada has firsthand experience of Rodman, who helped the U.S. end the Canadians' hopes of qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in a 4-0 loss to the U.S. in quarterfinal play at the CONCACAF Women's Under-20 Championship in March.
Rodman, a freshman who has yet to play for Washington State, has registered for the NWSL draft.
Quinn, a OL Reign defender-midfielder who goes by one name, is the highest Canadian ever taken in the NWSL draft, selected third overall in 2018 from Duke by the Washington Spirit.
Quinn most recently was on loan to Sweden's Vittsjo GIK.
Canadian forward Evelyne Viens, a prolific scorer at the University of South Florida, went fifth overall to Sky Blue FC in last year's draft.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2021
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press