BALTIMORE - Penn State's Raquel Rodriguez, who won the the MAC Hermann Trophy as the best player in women's college soccer last season, won't have to go far to start her professional career. She was picked by northern New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC with the No. 2 overall pick in Friday's National Women's Soccer League draft.
The Costa Rica native was in the women's soccer spotlight many times in 2016. A few months before leading the Nittany Lions to their first ever women's soccer national championship in December, she represented her country in its first ever appearance at the Women's World Cup. Rodriguez scored the team's first ever World Cup goal, too, in a 1-1 draw against Spain to start the group stage.
Sky Blue traded up to get Rodriguez, sending Nadia Nadim (who has her own incredible story) to Portland to get the No. 2 pick from the Thorns.
Now Rodriguez's trailblazing story is set for a new chapter. She is well aware of the impact that she has had on her country, and she relishes the opportunity to set an example.
"I grew up with many frustrations - I just didn't see how the dreams I had could come true," she said. "My hope is to be that role model that in the past, my generation did not have. I hope that this helps to grow the game, and like I said, I want to be that role model and take that responsibility."
Rodriguez wasn't the only Penn State player drafted on Friday. Her attacking partner, Mallory Webber, was picked by the Western New York Flash with the fourth pick of the second round, No. 14 overall.
Later in the second round, the spotlight shifted across the Delaware River as the Boston Breakers took Williamstown native Brittany Ratcliffe, a product of Virginia and Paul VI High School, with the No. 17 pick overall. Right after that, reigning NWSL champion FC Kansas City selected Rutgers defender Brianne Reed with the No. 18 pick.
In the third round, Sky Blue picked Rutgers defender Erica Skroski - a native of Galloway, N.J., and gratuate of Absegami High School - at No. 23 overall. The Cape-Atlantic League isn't exactly known as a girls soccer powerhouse, but Skroski helped Rutgers make a run to this year's national title. Now she's going pro with the team that she's a fan of - and it's literally in her back yard.
"To be able to advance my game to the next level with the professional team that plays on Rutgers' field means so much to me," Skroski said.