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North Carolina vs. Nebraska, 9.11.15

North Carolina's Paige Nielsen dribbles against Nebraska on Sept. 11 at Hibner Stadium. The Seattle Reign last week made Nielsen the No. 25 selection in the NWSL Draft.

At 11:58 a.m. Friday the Seattle Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League selected Paige Nielsen with the 25th overall selection in the NWSL Draft.

By getting picked, the Lincoln Southeast graduate became the first Nebraska native ever drafted into the NWSL.

Unlike most players who were selected, Nielsen wasn’t at home, nor was she on campus at North Carolina. She was halfway around the world.

“I was coming back from getting coffee with a German international player and her girlfriend and I realized what time it was and I thought, ‘Oh, crap, I’ll see my teammates get drafted,'” she said. “One of the coaches texted me asking if I’d play in the NWSL if I got drafted and he told me to turn on my TV.”

That’s when her name was called.

“I was shocked, honestly,” she said. “Especially that I went at number 25.”

Even while in Germany she proved that no great accomplishment goes unnoticed.

“My Internet kind of sucked so I put my phone down for a little bit,” Nielsen said. “My phone blew up. I had 100 text messages, Twitter notifications, everything.”

It gave her a little time to celebrate while overseas. Because she’s not spending her first trip to Europe on vacation.

She is two weeks into a two-month training session with FFC Frankfurt, the reigning UEFA Women’s Champions League champion.

The idea to train with Frankfurt arose during her senior year at North Carolina. The club even paid for her flight.

So Nielsen graduated early, spent 10 days in Mexico, and hopped on a flight to Germany.

“It was kind of scary, but I just went with it,” she said.

What about time off? A vacation, maybe?

“No, I’ve been training every day, like two-a-days,” she said. “Playing soccer with some coaches, old men’s players. The teammates here are super-awesome and welcoming.”

A center back during her senior year at North Carolina, Nielsen has been training at midfield, too, and forward, where she spent her first three seasons at UNC and her time at Lincoln Southeast.

“They asked what position I played and I said, ‘Well, that’s a good question,’” she said. “I like center defender a lot but I also like forward. I’ve been training there lately and some things are starting to come back to me.

“They’re so technical here that I could continue to improve at whatever position I’m playing.”

Skill isn’t the only development she’s seeing in Germany. The always-humble Nielsen is starting to see in herself what so many others in soccer have known for years.

“I think I need a little more confidence because more people value me than I’d expect,” she said. “Playing over here has given me more confidence.”

Her training with Frankfurt will continue until at least March 14, when the team begins its preseason. There’s also a good chance that Frankfurt could offer her a contract.

Then it would be decision time between Germany and America.

“Selfishly, the Seattle Reign is the best team that could have drafted me,” Nielsen said. “I love what they do, I love their coaches. Ideally, I’d come a little late to Seattle, because the seasons overlap.”

Regardless of what continent she’s on, she's made the commitment to playing soccer. She deferred a job offer with Bank of America for a year to pursue the professional ranks.

The training and mileage has her in bed before 9 p.m., so something as simple as coffee or Chipotle is her way of having fun off the field.

A day off may not be on the calendar nor a vacation on the horizon. Professional soccer, however, is within reach.

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