2020 NWSL Draft takes Camryn Biegalski back to where it all began

Growing up 20 miles northwest of SeatGeek stadium, which she’ll soon call home, Biegalski played every sport, but soccer was different.

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Camryn Biegalski was a four-year starter for the Wisconsin Badgers.

provided photo/Tom Lynn

Before Camryn Biegalski left Lombard for the University of Wisconsin, her club coach, Rory Dames, had a strong message for the rising star.

“When Cam was getting ready to come to Wisconsin, Rory called me,” Wisconsin coach Paula Wilkins said. “He said, ‘I want to tell you, she’s not doing all the things she needs to do. She’s cutting corners.’ ”

Biegalski got to Madison, Wisconsin, with a chip on her shoulder and a point to prove.

Fast-forward through the next four years, Biegalski was selected 16th overall by the Red Stars in the 2020 NWSL Draft by the same coach who offered the tough advice.

“I wasn’t the same player then that I am now,” Biegalski said. “Coming into college, I always had that little chip on my should from the conversation that Rory had with Paula.”

Growing up 20 miles northwest of SeatGeek stadium, which she’ll soon call home, Biegalski played every sport, but soccer was different.

She was 4 when she first began playing the game, but she always knew she’d play professionally someday.

“From the first time I touched the ball when I was little, I always talked about playing professional soccer,” Biegalski said. “It sounds stupid, but I really gave myself no other option; soccer was it.”

Mia Hamm was her idol. Before every game and even during her time at Wisconsin, Biegalski would play one of Hamm’s highlight reels to get psyched.

By the time she was in sixth grade, she was playing soccer nearly year-round for the club team Eclipse Select.

This was where she would first meet her future coach.

Dames coached the team just above Biegalski, so she wasn’t spending every day under his watchful eye, but from time to time he’d take notice and offer up lessons.

The biggest lesson she faced was when she was fourteen, and her coaches, Mike Nesci and Chris King, told her she would be switching positions. She would no longer be on the attack as a forward and midfielder. Instead, she would transition to outside back.

Biegalski was adamant that she would not be a defender.

“I lost it,” Biegalski said. “I wanted to quit soccer for a little bit.”

Dames, Nesci and King coached her through the transition, and once she got the hang of it, Biegalski said she knew she’d never play another position.

When she heard her name called during the draft, Biegalski was back in Madison — sitting among her family, friends and boyfriend. The group rejoiced when the call came in from Dames.

“Welcome home,” Dames told Biegalski.

Dames has a history of selecting local players in the draft. He drafted Sarah Gorden out of DePaul in 2016 and Hannah Davison out of Northwestern in last year’s draft.

Davison and Biegalski are very familiar with each other’s game. After years of being rivals, the two defenders are happy to be teammates.

“She texted me and said, ‘Welcome to the team, we’re excited to have you,’ ” Biegalksi said. “She was like, ‘We will all show you the way around.’ ”

Biegalski said she’s returning home with zero expectations, but she’s ready to get to work.

She’s joining a defensive unit led by women who have played and won at the highest level.

Biegalski believes her new teammates will help her reach a level that she didn’t even know was possible.

“Rory said, ‘We’re going to be losing three defenders to the Olympics,’ ” Biegalski said. “He’s like, ‘You have a shot.’ ”

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