When the National Women’s Soccer League held its inaugural College Draft in 2013, the event culminated without a Washington State player being selected. In 2014, the Chicago Red Stars picked up midfielder Nicole Setturlund in the third round, but 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 were barren years for the Cougars as NWSL teams reloaded their rosters with the NCAA’s best — many of them coming from the Pac-12 Conference.
That made the 2020 College Draft a momentous one for the Cougars, with Morgan Weaver and Averie Collins both being selected within the first two rounds — the first time WSU’s program had someone chosen in the first round and the first time multiple Cougars were chosen in the same draft.
The Cougars made history in 2020, then made more of it in 2021.
On Wednesday night, freshman forward Trinity Rodman became the second WSU player in as many years to be taken with the No. 2 pick of the NWSL draft, going to the Washington Spirit. Two more Cougars were taken before the virtual event concluded, giving Todd Shulenberger’s program five draft picks in two years after a five-year drought.
Defender Brianna Alger was drafted in the third round, with the 25th overall pick, by the Chicago Red Stars, and forward Makamae Gomera-Stevens was taken off the board just minutes later, going to the Houston Dash with the 27th overall pick.
Though Alger and Gomera-Stevens were selected Wednesday, both will stay in Pullman for the time being and compete for the Cougars during the upcoming spring season. Rodman plans to sign with the Spirit within the coming days and report to the team’s training camp next month.
“This group of young ladies, I said earlier the current group of players and the one that helped along the way before these guys played here, it’s been a long work in progress,” Shulenberger said on a post-draft Zoom call Wednesday night. “The work’s paying off for these young ladies and I’m super proud of these three and obviously the two that went last year as well.”
Rodman, who was widely considered the country’s top recruit in 2020, has extensive experience playing for the U.S. U-20 women’s national team, but didn’t play a game for the Cougars due to the COVID-19 pandemic and elected to register for the NWSL draft and get a jump-start on her professional career rather than suit up for WSU this spring.
Players had to be officially registered for the NWSL draft by Monday and Rodman, who had been in communication with WSU’s staff the last few months, told Shulenberger of her intentions on a phone call Sunday night. Rodman had initially committed to Pac-12 rival UCLA, but a visit to WSU, where her brother DJ is a sophomore forward for the men’s basketball team, convinced the Southern California native and daughter of former NBA champion Dennis Rodman to flip to the Cougars.
“She’s been awesome, wish her the best,” Shulenberger said. “It was nothing I was being blindsided about, we talked ourselves through the process and if you have a chance to be the second pick of the draft, you’ve got to go for it.”
Alger, a Colorado native, and Gomera-Stevens, a native of Hawaii, were both instrumental to WSU’s program-record 16-win season in 2019, helping the Cougars reach the College Cup for the first time in school history.
As a junior, Alger started in all 24 games for the Cougars and played a team-high 2,098 minutes, becoming the third player in school history to post double-digit assists (10).
“With this whole COVID thing, the rules for this draft were really messed around so I took on everything really fast and it was kind of unexpected to even be a part of this,” Alger said. “But I’m just so proud of myself for the work I put in and so happy that Chicago picked me up and so ready to start this new journey.”
A video from WSU’s Twitter account captured the reaction from Gomera-Stevens when the senior was drafted by Houston. The midfielder from Kapolei, Hawaii, shed tears when her name was called, explaining later in a Zoom call with reporters that few athletes from her native island have an opportunity to play Division I soccer.
“Bittersweet, it’s something I’ve been wanting, working towards, a goal of mine since I first started playing when I was 3 or 4,” Gomera-Stevens said. “… I just got a little bit emotional because my dream came true.”