Corvallis, Ore. – Jodie Taylor and Courtney Wetzel, two former Oregon State soccer standouts, represent the Beavers in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
In the NWSL’s second year, the league has expanded to nine teams for the 2014 season. Each team is comprised of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican National Team players, along with post-collegiate players. Taylor currently plays for the Washington Spirit, while Wetzel is plays for the Western New York Flash.
Taylor, an Oregon State All-American, was a forward from 2004-2007. Named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, she made her mark with 15 goals and 32 points in her inaugural season. After four years of stellar play, she was the first player in school history to be named to the Pac-10 All-Conference First Team each of her four years.
During a remarkable collegiate tenure, Taylor rewrote the record book and still sits atop many statistical categories, including career shots (269), career goals (47), game-winning goals (18), and multi-game goals (10).
Following her collegiate career, Taylor took a step back from playing and transitioned to a coaching position.
“After graduating at OSU, I took a year off from playing and became an assistant coach at Fresno State for a year,” Taylor said. “It was a great experience but I missed playing too much.”
Taylor then traveled oversees to play professionally in Australia for FC Sydney and the Melbourne Victory in the WWL. She is one of the league’s top scorers after only two years of play (2010-12) with 22 goals.
“I played for the Melbourne Victory for two summers while traveling back to England to play for Birmingham City in the English WSL,” Taylor said. “After taking the next year off from Australia to give my body a break, I played professionally in Sweden for Gothenburg FC, before returning to Australia to play for Sydney FC.”
With so much international experience at the professional level, Taylor was able to grow as a player and add to her already noteworthy arsenal.
“Each country has very different styles of play and provided me with very different challenges and experiences on and off the field,” Taylor said. “All of which ultimately helped my development as a player and a person.”
In December 2013, Taylor was picked up by the Washington Spirit prior to the 2014 NWSL College Draft, earning significant minutes and starts so far this season. Along with signing with the Spirit, Taylor was also recently called up to the senior English National Team for training camp.
“The NWSL has proven to be very competitive as some of the world’s best players are here; it's great to train with such quality players every day and to play against such quality every week,” Taylor said. “I like how the U.S. allocates the national team players across all teams and how the draft system works, it allows teams to be fairly even, which makes every game challenging.”
And with an ever-growing popularity in America, stemming from the successes of the U.S. Women’s National Team over the years, the NWSL has gained a large amount of fan support after only two short years.
“The involvement of fans and media is fantastic; there is a great fan base here in D.C. and it's great that all of the games are streamed live,” Taylor said. “It provides the league with a lot more attention and interest not only within the U.S., but also worldwide.”
Wetzel made her mark as a playmaker for Oregon State as a defender and midfielder from 2007-2010, earning All-Pac-12 Second Team and NSCAA All-Pacific Region Second Team status. In her four years, she tallied seven goals and 22 assists, ranking her second on Oregon State’s All-Time Career Assists list. Wetzel also holds the school record for Assists in a Single Season with 12 during her senior year.
In 2010, during her senior year with the Beavs, Wetzel also made two appearances for the U.S. Women’s U-23 National Team in exhibitions against Oregon State and the University of Portland, displaying her remarkable skills on a new level. During college, she also played for a USL W-League team, the Ottawa Fury, the top women’s league in America prior to the NWSL.
“Playing for OSU was an awesome experience and it helped give me the tools to be successful at the next level,” Wetzel said. “The support and encouragement from the coaching staff to push me to next level was what really made the jump to a higher level possible.”
Wetzel was a member of the Oregon State squad when the conference made the change from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12, expanding its already competitive reputation.
“The Pac-10, now the Pac-12, has always been a tough conference, so those competitive games every weekend helped prepare me for the next level as well,” Wetzel said. “Always striving to get better as a team and compete in one of the toughest conferences in the country made practices competitive and pushed all players to get better each day.”
Following graduation, Wetzel continued with the Ottawa Fury until 2013 when she signed with the Portland Thorns FC as a discovery player during the inaugural season of the NWSL, where she made 18 appearances and six starts. She also tallied one goal and one assist, helping the Thorns to the NWSL Championship.
“The atmosphere among the league has been positive and is showing signs to continue to grow which is something new to women's soccer,” Wetzel said. “Playing in Portland last season was incredible, knowing that each time you played in that stadium there were 12,000+ fans there cheering you on; I hope that the fan base continues to grow and spread among the other teams.”
On April 5, 2014, Wetzel was traded to the Western New York Flash, and has earned steady minutes so far this season.
“The Flash and the Thorns are both great teams and organizations,” Wetzel said. “The teams in our league are all pretty competitive which makes our league so strong and one of the best in the world.”
After moving from Portland to New York, Wetzel was in for a bit of a culture change as she spent the majority of her time playing on the west coast.
“It has been a little bit of a change going from somewhere I considered home, Portland, to here in New York, but that is part of the job,” Wetzel said. “The WNY team has been great and accepting, and we all have the same goals no matter what team we’re on, to win the championship at the end of the season.”
As members of such a young league with endless potential, both Taylor and Wetzel strive to help the success of the league, while also growing as players.
“I think my goal at this stage of my career is to continually get better and try to put myself in situations where I can grow as a player and a person,” Wetzel said. “In order to get better you have to train and play amongst the best and I think that this league here in the States can offer that.”
The 2014 NWSL season is just underway, stretching from mid-April to mid-August. Follow the journeys of these two soccer alums as they play a part in U.S. soccer history.