Jadyn Edwards (left) during the Mountain West Conference championship game on Nov. 6, 2021, in Boise, Idaho. Edwards, a Jackson High School graduate who played at the University of New Mexico, was selected in the third round of the National Women’s Soccer League draft by Racing Louisville. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos)

Jadyn Edwards (left) during the Mountain West Conference championship game on Nov. 6, 2021, in Boise, Idaho. Edwards, a Jackson High School graduate who played at the University of New Mexico, was selected in the third round of the National Women’s Soccer League draft by Racing Louisville. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos)

Jackson grad Edwards ‘grateful’ for chance to play in NWSL

After starring in college at New Mexico, Jadyn Edwards was selected in the third round of the NWSL draft by Racing Louisville.

Jadyn Edwards was a student at Jackson High School when she attended her first National Women’s Soccer League game. The then-Seattle Reign FC, which is now OL Reign in the country’s top women’s professional soccer league, was still housed at Seattle Memorial Stadium, and U.S. national team legend Hope Solo was keeping goal for the Reign.

“I went with my mom, my little sister and my brother, and it was so much fun to watch,” Edwards recalled. “I believe they won that game. I wanted to be able to play at that level.”

Now Edwards is getting her chance.

The Herald’s 2017 Girls Soccer Player of the Year and 2021-22 Woman of the Year in Sports began her NWSL journey Monday as Racing Louisville FC opened its training camp for the 2023 season.

Edwards, who was a three-time first-team All-Mountain West Conference forward at the University of New Mexico, was selected by Louisville in the third round of the NWSL draft. She was the first player ever drafted out of New Mexico, and she’s now among the elite few deemed worthy of getting a chance to play at the highest level in the country.

“It feels amazing, honestly,” Edwards said when contacted last week. “I’m just really grateful to get this opportunity to play with such high-quality players, and I’m grateful that I can play in the United States so I can be close to family. I’m super excited and really can’t wait to get started.”

Edwards gathered with family and close friends at her Mill Creek home on Jan. 12 to watch the NWSL draft. She was one of more than 250 players registered for the draft, with just 48 slots available in the draft’s four rounds, and while Edwards thought she would be picked, she wasn’t 100% certain — Edwards was prepared to pursue pro playing possibilities abroad if she wasn’t drafted. But rather than receiving the good news via call, Edwards was tipped off via text that she had been selected 29th overall.

“My coach at New Mexico, Heather Dyche, was at the draft in person,” Edwards said. “Word had gotten around that a team was going to select me with the next pick, but because of how crazy the draft was with all the trades she didn’t know which team, so she texted me, ‘Here we go.’ Then I got a call from a number in Kentucky, so I answered it and it was their assistant coach (Bev Yanez) saying they wanted me to come to Louisville. It was about a 20-second call, and when I hung up there was still about a minute left for the pick on TV, so I didn’t tell anyone where I was going yet, I just waited for it to be announced, and everyone went crazy. It was a super special moment, one I’ll never forget.”

Yanez cited both Edwards’ abilities on the field and her attributes off it for reasons why Racing selected her.

“Jadyn was a player I had my eye on,” said Yanez, who along with fellow assistant Sergio Gonzalez led Louisville’s draft preparations. “She was always someone who caught my attention because of her ability and desire to always be a threat. As time continued and I had conversations with people about her character and how excellent of a human being she is, I knew she would be a great addition to our locker room. I knew she would want to come into our environment and want to be coachable.”

In Louisville Edwards is joining one of the NWSL’s newest franchises, as it began life in 2021. Last season Racing placed ninth in the 12-team league with a 5-8-9 record. Louisville has a younger roster that doesn’t contain the high-profile stars such as the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, the San Diego Wave’s Alex Morgan or the Washington Spirit’s Trinity Rodman.

Louisville is also one of the organizations that was cited in recent investigations into player abuse in the NWSL, as former Racing coach Christy Holly was alleged to have engaged in a series of misconducts. Holly was fired in 2021. Edwards said she wasn’t concerned about the Louisville organization because Racing has cleared out the people who were involved in those allegations.

Edwards may have been drafted by an NWSL team, but that doesn’t guarantee her a roster spot. Racing already has 24 players under contract, and although forward is a position of need, Louisville selected forwards with three of their four draft picks. Therefore, Edwards has to show the coaches something during training camp to earn a place on the roster.

“What we expect from all our players is to come in and be as confident as possible, be as coachable as possible and put their stamp on things early on,” Yanez said when asked what it’ll take for Edwards to make the team. “We want them to be in the environment and soak up everything from the players around them.”

“I’ve been told by (Louisville head coach Kim Bjorkegren) and (Dyche) that I just need to do what I do best and focus on those things, like dribbling at the back line, beating people one-on-one, being sharp in finishing, just the things I’ve always been successful at,” Edwards said. “I’m really going to hone in on those things and hopefully that’s what will make me stand out compared to other players.”

The NWSL regular season begins on March 25. Louisville’s opening opponent is yet to be revealed.

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