(Editor's note: University of Montana media release)
MISSOULA — Former Montana soccer standout Taylor Hansen has signed a contract with San Diego Wave FC and will be on the team’s opening-day roster when the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup opens.
Hansen was a non-roster invitee to Wave’s preseason camp that opened in early February. Five weeks later she sat down with head coach Casey Stoney for a scheduled meeting and was told she had made the cut. Welcome to the team.
“He told me and I immediately started crying,” said Hansen, who just a few months ago was wrapping up her collegiate career with another Big Sky Conference championship and trip to the NCAA tournament with the Grizzlies.
Now she’s in the NWSL, the top women’s league in the world, one of 24 players on the San Diego Wave roster.
“It’s still all surreal. It’s kind of crazy how fast it’s all happened. I’m just filled with gratitude. I’m super blessed to be in this position,” she said. “This is the most fun I’ve had with soccer in a really long time. I’m excited to go to practice every single day and learn something new.”
Hansen is the first former Griz soccer player to be signed by a NWSL team.
Hansen submitted her name for December’s NWSL Draft but went unselected. In January, Wave invited her to join the team for preseason camp.
If she was viewed as a longshot, a 5-foot-4 defender in a world of towering forwards and athletic midfielders, that’s just part of the Taylor Hansen experience. She needs to be seen to be believed, viewed in person to be fully appreciated. Doubt her if you must. It’s what she thrives on.
“What I mainly focused on was just enjoying every moment and learning as much as possible,” Hansen said. “I was able to take the key points they were talking about and implement them in my game. Coachability is a big factor in all this.”
There were highs and lows, sometimes all within the same day, within the same training session. She persevered, her belief in herself always pulling her through.
“There have been days when I’ve been like, I can totally do this. I feel great. Then there are days when there are moments of doubt,” she said. “But there was always an underlying confidence. I’m going to make the best of any situation, and that’s what carried me through no matter what happened. That helped me keep a better perspective on things and be able to enjoy the moment I was in.
“It didn’t come without days with tears, but those are the emotions that make the experience worth it.”
Hansen was one of 34 players on the team as it went through preseason training in February and early March. This week the NWSL’s 12 teams announced their final rosters in the leadup to the Challenge Cup, which opened on Friday with two games.
During that time Hansen went from non-roster invitee to contract player in the world’s top league, from sleeveless Grizzly to sleeveless professional, because some things never change.
“They said they knew I was a good player but were pleasantly surprised by what I brought,” Hansen said. “They said I made a lot of progress in the short time I was here. That was super important too.”
San Diego Wave will play its first match of the Challenge Cup against fellow Southern California expansion club Angel City on Saturday at Cal State Fullerton starting at 7 p.m. (MT) on Paramount+.
“One day at a time,” Hansen said about the schedule ahead. “We’ll get there when we get there. There are nerves but it’s excitement more than anything. I kind of relate it back to freshman year of college.”
Wave will play two matches, home and away, against Angel City, two against Portland Thorns and two against OL Reign in pool play as part of the West Region of the Challenge Cup. Wave will play its home matches at Torero Stadium in San Diego.
The Challenge Cup concludes in early May. The NWSL’s 22-match regular season will begin later in the spring.