HERNDON, Va. (WUSA) -- Scrambling mere weeks before his team's first season, D.C. United Women coach Mike Jorden reached out to local players--collegians on summer break, recent college graduates and professionals--to piece together a roster. As members of Jorden's team, players were baptized by fire, enduring tough losses in the beginning of the schedule while searching for an offensive spark. Jorden hoped to find that spark in a whole new talent pool: local high school students out of Virginia's club leagues.
Since D.C. United Women is an amateur club, girls signed on the roster do not relinquish their amateur eligibility, which is required if they want to play in college.
Not letting age get in the way, Jorden signed one of the region's most dynamic goal scorers, Stone Bride High's rising junior, Ashley Herndon. As the young girl on D.C. United Women's roster, 16-year-old Herndon has had to adjust to the boost in level of play.
"It's different because it's a faster game, the girls are older and have been through college," said Herndon.
Even if the squad's average age of 21-years-old is five years older than Herndon, it's not at all apparent on the field. The reserved rising high school junior gets after it on the field, attacking the goal and looking to score, which was exactly why Jorden brought her on the team.
"Her club coach is a friend of mine, so I talked to him about Ashley and he said she's one of the better goal scorers in the area for a 16-year-old, and we need goals," said Jorden.
Already, Herndon has logged minutes on the field, appearing in three games for D.C. United Women. Wasting no time, Jorden rolled out the teen amongst grown adults and started Herndon in her first match in mid-June as a member of the team.
"She came into the first game and didn't know what to expect and was a bit tentative, but as the game went on, she got more aggressive," said Jorden.
Similar to how Herndon has had to settle into a higher level of play, the 16-year-old has had to adjust to playing with all women in their twenties. According to teammate Christy Bush, who is 12 years Herndon's senior, younger players like Herndon tend to be quieter and it's crucial for the older teammates and coaches to communicate effectively to the younger players.
D.C. United Women's coaching staff has been satisfied with Herndon's game, but Jorden has concerns that the rising junior may wear out. She is playing with her club team in the regional championships and must keep pace with the W League's full 10-game regular season schedule from Memorial Day to just after Independence Day.
Herndon has taken to her stint in the W League well, gaining the most valuable type of experience: consistently playing against competition that is better than you. Her talents have boded well for her, proving she can hang, and even succeed, at the next level.
"She's a little bit raw, but she has immense talent and things you can't teach. She runs off the ball, she's always finding herself on good places. Although she's got a lot to learn, she's got a bright future," said Jorden.
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