Colaprico is first-round pick of Chicago Red Stars

By TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

 Danielle Colaprico, who set career records at the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League with the ninth pick in the first round. A Freehold native, she starred at Red Bank Catholic High School before becoming a two-time All-American at Virginia.  KELSEY GRANT/UVA ATHLETICS Danielle Colaprico, who set career records at the University of Virginia, was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League with the ninth pick in the first round. A Freehold native, she starred at Red Bank Catholic High School before becoming a two-time All-American at Virginia. KELSEY GRANT/UVA ATHLETICS Danielle Colaprico was a guest at the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Draft in Philadelphia.

Her head coach at the University of Virginia, Steve Swanson, had told her she should attend the event. Maybe her head coach knew something.

Colaprico, a two-time All-American midfielder for the Cavaliers, had been contacted by some NWSL teams, but attending the draft to be selected had never crossed her mind.

It turned out to be a very good thing that Colaprico, a native of Freehold, was in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Jan. 16. She was selected by the Chicago Red Stars with the ninth pick of the first round and got to stand up on the podium. Chicago was one of the teams that had contacted Colaprico prior to the draft.

“Just sitting there is nerve-wracking,” she said. “Having my name called in the first round was amazing.”

“It’s definitely awesome. I’m excited to join Chicago. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get started.

Colaprico, who starred at Red Bank Catholic High School, didn’t give much thought to playing soccer professionally until her career at Virginia was over. She had other things on her mind.

“I didn’t think about it until my senior year; my goal was to win a national title,” she said.

The Cavaliers didn’t win a national title, but they sure came close. They were the NCAA runner-up last fall, losing to Florida State University, 1-0, in the championship game (Colaprico was named to the All- NCAA Tournament Team). During her career, the Cavaliers did everything else, including capturing Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships and an NCAA Region crown.

For her part, Colaprico became one of Virginia’s most decorated athletes. She was a two-time All-American and set Cavalier records for most career assists (44) and most appearances (100). She led the ACC in assists in 2014, setting another school record with 19. She was named the ACC Midfield of the Year in 2014.

Colaprico excelled in the classroom as well, earning First Team NSCAA Scholar All-America accolades. She graduated with a degree in psychology the previous semester. She is also a member of the U.S. U-23 National Team.

To help her prepare for the Red Stars camp, which starts on March 9, Colaprico will work out with her Virginia teammates, including Morgan Brian, who was also picked in the first round of the draft by the Houston Dash.

Just as Colaprico found role models in the women who went before her and raised the exposure of the sport in the country to make professional soccer a possibility, she is now that for teammates and others who look to play soccer beyond college. Colaprico wants to take full advantage of the opportunity the Red Stars have given her because “Chicago believed in me,” she said.

Red Stars head coach Rory Dames told Colaprico they were looking for “someone who could play outside and handle pressure.”

In a Red Stars press release following the draft, Dames said that Colaprico was one of the players “we initially identified that we thought could definitely help us.”

Colaprico is a versatile midfielder who has played defense, midfielder and forward.

Colaprico will get to play at least one game close to home when the Red Stars visit Sky Blue FC, which plays its home matches in Piscataway at Rutgers University.

Making it to the professional level of any sport is hard to predict; however, Colaprico has been on that path from her PDA club days, through high school, to college and onto the U-17 and U-23 National Teams. She excelled at all levels due to the sheer pleasure she gets out of the game.

“I enjoy everything about soccer, from the games, practice, everything,” she said.

Soccer will be even more enjoyable when she takes the pitch to play it professionally.