When fourth-round draft pick Carleigh Williams begins training camp with the Dash in March, she won't be the only University of Central Florida alum on the roster. Williams and Dash defender Marissa Diggs have prior chemistry as both center backs helped anchor the Knights' back line from 2011-2013.
Williams could also see a great deal of action this season as many of the Dash defenders will miss time to play in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
While attending Lecanto High School Williams first showed off her athleticism lettering 11 times in five different sports: soccer, track and field, volleyball, weightlifting and softball. The Beverly Hills, Fla., native was also named a member of the National Honor Society, an honor roll recipient for all four years of high school.
In her freshman season at Central Florida Williams started 20 of 23 games and was a key component to the Knights first NCAA Elite 8 appearance since 1987. The defender was selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team in 2011. Williams followed up her praiseworthy freshman season by starting every game as a sophomore, leading UCF's defense to fourth ranked in the nation in shutout percentage (.625). The Knights' 15 shutouts in 2012 marked a Conference USA single-season record.
As a junior Williams continued to show the attributes of an elite defender and leader. She led the Knights to the American Athletic Conference regular season title and the program's first undefeated conference season in 14 years. After missing the postseason due to a torn ACL, she returned to action for her final season at Central Florida.
Williams again started every game at center back playing a team-high 2,143 minutes and helped guide UCF to 13 shutouts. She bounced back well from the injury closing out her collegiate career with the most wins in a season in program history, a Sweet 16 berth and their second straight second-straight conference regular season title last season. She was also named American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was selected NSCAA First Team All-Region, All-AAC First Team and All-ACC Tournament Team.
While first overall pick Morgan Brian will serve as the face of the franchise for years to come, look out for Williams to be a pivotal piece in Houston's playoff hopes for the 2015 NWSL season.