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Five former Pepperdine women’s soccer players will be part of the first U.S. professional team sports league to make a comeback since the COVID-19 pandemic hit as the National Women’s Soccer League begins play this weekend.
Hailey Harbison and Lynn Williams are members of the defending NWSL champion North Carolina Courage, while Gunnhildur Jonsdottir and Michelle Maemone play for Utah Royals FC and Bri Visalli is a recent signing for the Houston Dash.
Additionally, former Pepperdine associate head coach Twila Kaufman, who spent 10 seasons with the program, is a member of the Houston Dash’s coaching staff.
The season begins with the NWSL Challenge Cup, the entirety of which will be held in Utah from June 27-July 26. The first game features Harbison and Williams and the North Carolina Courage against the Portland Thorns on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. on CBS. All games will be shown via the CBS All Access channel.
Unofficially, Pepperdine is one of just 10 schools to have at least five alums playing in the NWSL Challenge Cup.
Harbison was the West Coast Conference Defender of the Year in both 2017 and 2018. She earned All-WCC honors all four of her seasons (twice making the first team, as well as the second team once and honorable mention once). She also earned All-West Region status four times, including three times on the first team. She posted career totals of three goals and seven assists. Harbison was taken in the first round of the 2019 NWSL Draft by the North Carolina Courage, although she missed the 2019 season due to injury.
Jonsdottir, a native of Iceland, only played for the Waves as a 2010 freshman. She collected three assists that season and earned All-WCC honorable mention status. She turned professional after that. She scored Utah Royals FC’s first-ever goal in 2018 and is in her third year with the team.
Maemone was a standout defender and occasional forward for the Waves from 2015-18. She made All-WCC honorable mention in 2016. She had three goals and four assists in her career. She was picked by Utah Royals FC in the third round of the 2019 NWSL Draft.
Visalli was an All-American second team selection and Pepperdine’s first-ever WCC Player of the Year in 2017. She earned All-WCC honors all four years, including the first team twice. The midfielder/forward had 25 goals and 10 assists in her career. She was picked by the Chicago Red Stars in the second round of the 2018 NWSL Draft, but went to England and had stints with West Ham United and Birmingham City before signing with the Houston Dash in May.
Williams made the All-American first team in 2014 and was a four-time All-WCC pick, three times making the first team. She’s second all-time at Pepperdine with 39 goals and also had 24 career assists. Fourteen of those goals and 10 assists came in her senior season. She is Pepperdine’s most accomplished professional, winning three NWSL titles and both the NWSL MVP and Golden Boot awards in 2016. She was a first-round draft pick of the Western NY Flash in 2015. She has played for the U.S. National Team 23 times and has scored eight goals.