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Emily Gray goes third; Madison Elwell 15th in NWSL Draft

Sydney Zandi also entering NWSL as a discovery player with San Diego Wave

France v USA - Women U19’s International Friendly Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Two local players were drafted in the first two rounds and a third player who played for Villanova and Philadelphia Lone Star also had her name called in the NWSL Draft on Saturday.

Emily Gray, a Virginia Tech midfielder from Washington Township, N.J. was the third player taken in the draft. The former SJEB FC and Penn Fusion Academy star went to the North Carolina Courage.

“I am super excited about this opportunity with the Courage,” Gray stated in a news release. “They have such an impressive history in the league and I can’t wait to get started. I know many are saying the Courage are rebuilding this year but I am ready to work and hope we can get after it from the start.”

Gray led the Hokies as a senior with nine goals and eight assists, breaking the single-game school record for assists with four. She was named to the All-ACC Third Team, the United Soccer Coaches Association All-Atlantic Region Second Team, and the All-ACC Academic Team.

“Emily was someone we wanted immediately,” head coach Sean Nahas stated in the news release. “She is a tidy footballer with a great soccer IQ and dynamic thinking in the final third. She is good on the ball and likes to attack players and look for the final ball, and has improved on her scoring quality as well, which has made her a player that becomes a lot more dangerous in how she is defended. We are really happy to secure Emily to our Courage family.”

Ambler, Pa. native Madison Elwell was drafted in the second round by the Washington Spirit with the 15th overall pick. Elwell had 12 goals and 29 assists during her five seasons with Vanderbilt, earning Second-Team All-SEC honors in each of her final three seasons.

Elwell played locally for YMS Xplosion, Philadelphia Ukrainian Nationals and Wissahickon High School before going to Nashville for college.

A third player with local ties taken in Saturday’s draft was goalkeeper Hensley Hancuff. The Oklahoma native spent two seasons at Villanova and played in the WPSL with Philadelphia Lone Star for a season. She was drafted 34th overall by Gotham FC out of Clemson, where she transferred after two seasons with Villanova.

West Chester, Pa. native Sydney Zandi didn’t declare for the draft but the Virginia standout — who was a teammate of Gray with Penn Fusion Academy — was also recently acquired by San Diego Wave as a discovery player. The Wave also acquired Voorhees, N.J. native Amirah Ali. The forward returned to help lead Rutgers to the College Cup after being drafted by the Portland Thorns in January.