Jan. 15, 2016

By Joanne Norell

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A pair of University of Notre Dame women’ s soccer captains took the first step in continuing their soccer careers Thursday after being selected in the 2016 NWSL College Draft on Friday at the National Soccer Coaches Association of American Convention in Baltimore.

Senior center back Cari Roccaro went to the Houston Dash with the fifth overall pick – reuniting with former Notre Dame and current Dash head coach Randy Waldrum – while the Chicago Red Stars selected Roccaro’s center back counterpart Katie Naughton with the ninth pick of the second round, and 19th pick overall.

Roccaro and Naughton became the second and third former Irish players to be selected in the NWSL College Draft dating to the league’s creation in 2012. Former Irish midfielder Mandy Laddish was taken by FC Kansas City with the 20th pick of the 2014 draft.

Roccaro was taken fifth overall despite offseason surgery which will keep her out of competition until the middle of the NWSL’s season this summer. She found a great fit in Houston, which owned three of the draft’s first-round picks and could find a spot open upon her return this summer as several of the league’s top players head to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

“Having three picks (in the first round) gave us some flexibility to wait for [Roccaro] to get healthy because she’s going to be a star in this league,” Waldrum told Jonathan Yardley and Jen Cooper during the draft broadcast, which was streamed live on YouTube. Waldrum also noted his familiarity with Roccaro, having coached her for two seasons at Notre Dame.

Roccaro is a two-time NSCAA third-team All-American, a two-time Irish captain and former U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team captain. She made contributions from every field position throughout her career with the Irish, with 75 starts, 13 goals and four assists (30 points). In 2015, she transitioned to the back line to become one of the nation’s premier central defenders on a team that yielded just 5.4 shots per game and a total of 11 goals in 20 matches.

Rocarro was a four-time all-conference selection (ACC and BIG EAST), a two-time Monogram Club Team MVP, the 2012 Soccer America National Freshman of the Year and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year. In 2013, she was named a Soccer America first team MVP and was a three-time NSCAA All-Southeast Region honoree.

Naughton, a native of Elk Grove Village, Illinois, will stay close to home with the Red Stars, which finished second in the league last season before falling to defending 2014 champion FC Kansas City in the NWSL playoffs.

Naughton was the first three-time captain in Notre Dame women’s soccer history and started every game of her college career. She scored 11 career goals and added two assists (24 points), was named to the all-ACC second team during her junior and senior seasons, and the all-BIG EAST third team as a freshman.

Virginia’s Emily Sonnett, who was a first-team NSCAA All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Hermann Trophy finalist, was the first overall pick, going to the Portland Thorns. A total of eight ACC players went in the draft’s first two rounds.

The fourth season of the NWSL will begin in April.

For the latest Fighting Irish women’s soccer coverage, be sure log on to UND.com, follow @NDSoccer on Twitter and like Notre Dame Women’s Soccer on Facebook.


Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women’s soccer, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.