The USC attacker received a pass at the top of the six-yard box as she boxed out her defender. She turned quickly and fired a low shot into the bottom corner of the Georgetown net. USC advanced to the 2016 NCAA College Cup Final and left the defender face down in despair.
The Georgetown defender was Meaghan Nally and it was her first start in her freshman year. Many freshmen would have collapsed under the pressure of being the defender who was beaten to end the university’s banner year. But Nally didn’t. She displayed tenacity and extreme mental fortitude for which she was rewarded as she was drafted in the third round of the NWSL Draft by the Portland Thorns.
“Meaghan is an absolute warrior,” Thorns coach Mark Parsons said. “She has a ‘beast mode’ mentality in the way she approaches growth and development and how she approaches defending attackers.”
After the College Cup semifinal, Nally became a regular in the Georgetown defense. In 2017, she appeared in 21 games (20 starts) and helped her team set school records for fewest goals allowed (7) and most clean sheets (17).
Nally started 24 of Georgetown’s 25 matches the following year and anchored a defense that only allowed 10 goals on the year. Her hard work and perseverance paid off as she led the Hoyas to the best year in program history. That season the team set school records for most wins (21) and most consecutive wins (14) while only allowing 10 goals and 199 shots in 25 matches.
She is the two-time BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time All-BIG EAST First Team honoree. Nally is extremely versatile and can play anywhere along the backline. She is very comfortable with the ball at her feet. Her ball carrying skills allow her to occasionally join in the attack. She has great physicality and uses it successfully to ride off challenges. Nally also effectively sprays longballs and passes from the back that can break the line of the opponent, transitioning defense to offense quickly while eliminating defenders.
Nally’s determination and desire to learn will be crucial in the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah. The goal is obviously to win, but Parsons knows this is an opportunity to develop young talent and build a team for the future. It is unclear how the Thorns will line-up in defense, but the short tournament will be sure to afford the versatile Nally an opportunity to learn and develop in one of the best leagues in the world.