UMEA, Sweden (August 11, 2008)– Former University of Connecticut player Niki Cross has signed a contract with Umea Sodra, a member of the Swedish Damallsvenskan league, currently considered the best women's soccer league in the world. Cross was a four-time letterwinner for UConn from 2003-06.
A four-year letter-winner and captain at Notre Dame Academy, Cross was named All-State, All-New England, All-American, McDonald's All-American and ODP All-American during the course of her high school career. She was a repeat member of the Patriot Ledger and Boston Globe All-Star Teams, was honored as the Boston Globe Division I Player of the Year, and received the Boston Sports Award for Female Athlete of the Year.
During her time at UConn, Cross led her team to the national championship game as a freshman earning BIG EAST All-Rookie team honors. She was also named to the MAC Hermann trophy shortlist as a senior. A versatile member of the Huskies, Cross played in 92 career games (starting in 87 of them) ranking 13th on the UConn Games Played list. She also tallied 34 points in her career at UConn with 13 goals (five game winners) and eight assists.
Cross spent the past two years training and playing with the SoccerPlus CT Reds (WPSL) under former national team and current Boston Breakers (WPS) coach Tony DiCicco. This past summer Cross anchored a Reds backline that went undefeated at 12-0 during the regular season, allowing only two goals during that time.
Umea Sodra is the most recent member of the Swedish Damallsvenskan league, currently considered the best women's soccer league in the world. The team was promoted from second division to first at the end of last season, but they currently sit near the bottom of the league table and hope the addition of Cross will help them avoid relegation.
According to Coach Torbjorn Nordstrom, "Niki brings experience as one of the key players in a league with a lot of talent. She possesses very good technique and speed, is playable at a wide variety of positions, and has a nose for goal--which gives us options. I believe this addition makes us a very strong team." Nordstrom predicts he will return Cross to a more attacking role than she has played in recent years, most likely taking advantage of her speed as an outside midfielder.
For Cross, the opportunity couldn't come at a better time. "I am so excited to be playing in such a high-quality league with some of the best players in the world. I have been so fortunate to have learned so much over the past couple of years playing under Tony (DiCicco) and Lisa (Cole) in Connecticut. Now to play with and against players like Marta, Daniela, Hanna Ljunberg—it's the chance of a lifetime. My goal is to contribute to Umea Sodra in any way the team needs me, then return to the United States when the season ends in October to hopefully earn the chance to play in the WPS. That would be the ultimate dream for me."
** Release and information above courtesy of John Hannon.