BALTIMORE — Growing up in Sicklerville, Tziarra King didn’t play for any of the big-name youth teams in New Jersey. And, she was cut from a regional Olympic development program team.
But she was so good at Winslow Township High School that she attracted the attention of colleges, including North Carolina State, where she ended up. And she was so good with the Wolfpack — 48 goals and 19 assists in four years — that she was noticed by U.S. youth national teams.
On Thursday, King won the biggest prize yet. The midfielder heard her name called as a first-round pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft. The Utah Royals selected her at No. 8 overall.
“To just think that I’m here and it really happened, it’s just absolutely mind-blowing,” King said. “I’m so excited.”
At Utah, King will be teammates with Pottstown native Nicole Barnhart; U.S. national team stars Christen Press, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Kelley O’Hara; and terrific Spanish playmaker Veronica Boquete.
“I’m just so excited to play with and against them, and just learning from the best that do it,” King said.
King was one of four players with local ties who were drafted. West Chester native Phoebe McClernon, a defender from the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Radnor and the University of Virginia, went to the Orlando Pride at No. 14; Penn State defender Kaleigh Riehl went to Sky Blue at No. 11; and Rutgers defender Chantelle Swaby, who played for Jamaica in last summer’s World Cup, went to Sky Blue at No. 29.
Glenside native Meghan McCool, a forward from Virginia and Springside Chestnut Hill, surprisingly was not drafted.
The day was a fireworks’ show of trades, and the biggest booms came right at the start.
Just before NWSL president Amanda Duffy took the stage, Sky Blue FC dealt the No. 2 and 3 picks to the Chicago Red Stars for Nos. 4 and 5.
Chicago then flipped the No. 2 pick to the Portland Thorns — which already held No. 1 — and sent No. 3 to the Orlando Pride as part of a wider move. And Sky Blue flipped No. 4 to Washington, which wanted the pick so badly that it gave up young U.S. national team star Mallory Pugh.
When the dust settled, Portland had two of the draft’s biggest prizes — Stanford forward Sophia Smith and Washington State forward Morgan Weaver — and Washington had the third, UCLA forward Ashley Sanchez. Smith and Sanchez both have extensive U.S. youth national team experience, and Smith was part of this month’s senior team training camp.