With her rookie season and the hard work of transitioning from college soccer to the pro game behind her, Mount Laurel, N.J. native Kenie Wright was looking forward to what year two held for Sky Blue FC.
Then the coronavirus pandemic shuttered soccer leagues around the world.
The chance to officially start year two will finally come for Wright as she and her teammates prepare for their first game of 2020 on Tuesday night as part of the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah. Sky Blue plays OL Reign at 10 p.m. eastern time (CBS All Access).
“Everyone is excited just to be together playing again and looking forward to (Tuesday),” Wright said.
The Lenape High School grad and former PDA standout was drafted 29th overall in the 2019 NWSL College Draft out of Rutgers University, where she was a teammate of Sky Blue defender and Mays Landing, N.J. native Erica Skroski along with Voorhees, N.J. native Madison Tiernan. She made her professional debut last May and made three additional appearances on the season.
When preparations for the start of the season were suspended by the coronavirus, she returned home to her family in Mount Laurel, where she was able to train with her younger sister Sydnie Wright and spend time with her family.
“I enjoyed being home and spending so much time with my family but I also knew I had a job to do,” Wright said. “Having my sister there was definitely a big help and both of my parents were division 1 athletes so they were there to give me advise and support me through it.”
Wright’s connections to her hometown already remained strong since she didn’t go far to college or far from campus to start her pro soccer career. She helped coached her sister’s high school team at her alma mater last fall (she was recently added to the coaching staff at Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals) and said she’s proud both of her South Jersey roots and the fact that she plays professional team in her home state.
“I’m New Jersey through and through,” she said.
In addition to Skroski, Tiernan and Wright, Sky Blue also has USMNT star Carli Lloyd from Delran, N.J. who is also a Rutgers alum. Lloyd picked up a left knee injury and didn’t make the trip to Utah and Tiernan will also miss out on the competition with another injury setback after missing all of last season with an ACL injury.
Bethlehem, Pa. native Gina Lewandowski, who made her Sky Blue debut the same night as Wright last May after joining the team following the completion of her eighth season with Bayern Munich, is also back in the squad.
Sky Blue returned to small group training at the New York Red Bulls Training Center in late May but despite the long period of time away from the field, Wright said it felt like the group hadn’t “missed a beat.” The team finished with a 5-5-14 win draw loss record last season after recording just one win in 2018 and was preparing to play their home schedule this season at Red Bull Arena.
Now that they are closing in on their first competitive match in nearly eight months, Wright said she is ready to do whatever is asked of her to do in Utah playing without fans in the stands.
“Whether I’m starting or I’m on the bench, I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team,” she said. “Even if that just means being as loud as I possibly can from the bench.”