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NWSL Rookie of the Year; making the case for Houston's Kealia Ohai

Kealia Ohai celebrates one of her team leading four goals in the Dash's inaugural season
Kealia Ohai celebrates one of her team leading four goals in the Dash's inaugural season
Lou Roesch

2014 may well be the closest race for rookie of the year honors in the National women’s Sccer League. In 2013, ran away with the vote but this year three viable candidates present themselves and to make the decision making even harder, they play three different positins according to team rosters.
The three include Chicago Red Star defender Julie Johnston, and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo along with Houston’s Kealia Ohai.
Although, Johnston and DiBernardo had each other on an established team, Ohai sparkled on a fledgling first year franchise that struggled to score goals and win games.
“It was frustrating early in the year,” said Ohai about her growth as a professional. “So mentally, I had to learn how to adjust and the adjustment was quicker probably then for most because of how amazing our veterans are and by the third or fourth game, I started to gain my confidence.”
Ohai scored her first professional goal on May 31, 2014 when she teamed with Austrian forward Nina Burger in sparking Houston to a 2-1 win over the Western New York Flash. After that, the number one pick of the Houston Dash became a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. Over the last 14 games of the season, Ohai accounted for a third of her team’s goals.
The speedy former University of North Carolina forward gave opposing defenders fits as she added a new dimension to her game taking it outside in the second half of the season becoming an adept playmaker in the offensive third of the field for her teammates as well as a scorer.
“She’s been our best player,” said head coach Randy Waldrum following Ohai’s two goal game winning performance on July 11, 2014. “She’s just been tearing it up. So it’s great to see her get get rewarded for the work she’s put in.”
And the effort continued as the rookie led or tied for the team lead in goals scored (4), shots (43), shots on goal (22) all while finishing second in minutes played (1817), games played (23), and games started (21). It can be argued that the play and numbers put up by Johnston and DiBernardo were just as impressive yet none can doubt that any player meant more to her team’s success than Kealia Ohai did to the Houston Dash.
“Every time I start a game, I want to be able to take over that game,” concluded Ohai.

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