Joelle Anderson, Waves Soccer Scorer, Chosen in NWSL Draft

Joelle Anderson during a 2019 soccer match

Joelle Anderson has scored more than a handful of goals during her years on the pitch as a member of the Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer team. In fact, the senior midfielder and forward has tallied so many goals that she enters the Waves’ spring season next month ranked ninth on the program’s all-time goal scorer list. 

Anderson, who has 21 goals, 13 assists and 55 points in 55 career matches, said her scoring prowess comes from a lot of training. 

“It’s just putting in the extra work,” she said. “After practice, I work on my free kicks, my shots. I have always been an attacking player. Over the years, I’ve just worked really hard and took the extra time to really perfect what I’m good at.”

The added work has paid off. 

Anderson was selected by the Houston Dash in the third round of the National Women’s Soccer League Draft on Jan. 13. Anderson, the spectacle’s 26th overall pick, talked to some NWSL coaches before the four-round draft, but wasn’t certain she would be picked. 

“It is so unreal,” she said, “I still can’t believe it. I have wanted to be a professional soccer player since I was little. It’s been my dream—it’s so cool that it came true.” 

Anderson was at home with a few of her Pepperdine teammates when she found out the Dash, winners of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, selected her. She said the group celebrated with her as she FaceTimed her family and friends. The Waves had a team Zoom meeting shortly afterward where they applauded Anderson’s drafting. 

The Pepperdine standout was one of Houston’s two selections in the event, which finished with 40 players chosen. The Dash selected Makamae Gomera-Stevens from Washington right after they picked Anderson. 

Anderson’s soccer journey began when she was four. The 22-year-old’s parents, Michelle and Peter Anderson, placed her on a Bay Area youth team because “I had so much energy,” said the younger Anderson. 

Anderson played three years of varsity soccer at The Harker School in San Jose where she scored 101 goals, the second-most career goals in school history. She added 35 career assists and was named the team’s MVP as a senior and Forward of the Year in the West-Bay Athletic League. 

Anderson also played 10 years with the De Anza Force soccer club. With the group, she won the 2013 Donosti Cup in Spain and that same year won the Elite Clubs National League national championship. The team took third place in the ENCL nationals the next two years and finished second in 2016. 

Anderson tallied 9 goals, 6 assists and 24 points her freshman season at Pepperdine. That led to her being named to the All-West Coast Conference second team, WCC All-Freshman team, United Soccer Coaches All-West Region second team and Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Best XI second team. 

All five of her goals the next season were game winners. She was also named to the 2018 All-WCC second team. By the end of her junior season, Anderson had tallied a team-high 7 goals and 18 points as she started 19 of 20 games. 

But it was between her second and third Pepperdine seasons when Anderson, a 2019 All-WCC and United States Coaches All-West Region first teamer, really took off. 

“I gained more confidence in my game and believed I could take it to the next level and possibly go pro,” she noted. “My coaches have always been supportive of me, and my teammates, too.” 

Anderson won’t report to the Dash until after Pepperdine’s 2021 fall season and after she graduates with her psychology degree in December. When she does, Anderson will be the second former Pepperdine player on the roster. Bri Visalli, who graduated Anderson’s freshman year, is a member of the Dash. Additionally, Houston assistant coach Twila Kaufman once had a similar role with the Waves.

Anderson is the seventh Pepperdine Wave player to be drafted by a NWSL team. Michelle Maemone and Hailey Harbison were selected in 2019. Visalli was picked the year before and Lynne Williams was in 2015. Michelle Pao was taken in the 2014 and Roxanne Barker in 2013. 

Being drafted has inspired Anderson, who ranks in the top 10 in seven Pepperdine career records list, to keep seeking to improve.  

“That’s extra fuel for me to keep going, to keep working hard every single day,” she said. “I think being drafted will change the mindset of the other teams. I will have a bigger target on my back. I’m excited for the challenge, honestly.”