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Sky Blue FC officially opens 2016 preseason

The team convened Monday at the Atlantic Club to prepare for the upcoming season

The day all fans of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) have been waiting for is finally here: the official start of the 2016 preseason.

On Monday, Sky Blue FC, along with the other nine teams in the league, reconvened for the first time since the end of last season.

Sky Blue opened its season at the Atlantic Club in Manasquan, New Jersey, where the team will be training throughout the week in preparation for the first of two preseason matches.

On Sunday, March 20, the team faces St. John’s University at Wexler Field located at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School at 2 p.m. EST. The following Saturday, March 26, Sky Blue takes on the University of North Carolina at Georgia Court University at 3 p.m. EST.

"These games are an essential part of preparation as we work towards building and implementing a successful team for 2016," Head Coach Christy Holly said in a statement. "It will be a great opportunity to not only get the team out on the field in front of our fans, but also a chance for us to fine-tune some of the technical and tactical work that we have planned for our preseason camp."

Along with the start of preseason camp, Sky Blue FC also released its initial preseason roster.

Many notable players from last season are returning again this season, including U.S. Women’s National Team (U.S. WNT) members Christie Rampone and Kelley O’Hara and Australian internationals Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr.

With the preseason also come several new faces. Among those are Costa Rican international and MAC Hermann Trophy winner Raquel Rodriguez, English forward Leah Galton, Rutgers defender Erica Skroski and All-American goalkeeper Caroline Casey, all of whom were taken by the New Jersey club in the 2016 NWSL college draft.

Also reporting to camp for the first time is former U.S. WNT and Sky Blue FC forward Tasha Kai, who helped the national team earn a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics before leading Sky Blue FC to the 2009 Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) Championship.

"The objective of our preseason camp is to establish a balanced squad with a strong depth," Holly said. "This camp will provide us with the opportunity to evaluate each player and put together the most deserving group for the 2016 season."

In addition to the players listed on the preseason roster, Sky Blue FC also announced the signing of former Seattle Reign FC goalkeeper Caroline Stanley. Stanley joins the club team in the wake of starting goalkeeper Brittany Cameron’s announcement that she is extending her contract with her Japanese club team, Vegalta Sendai, through the 2016 NWSL season.

Sky Blue FC begins its NWSL season on Sunday, April 17 in an away match against the Seattle Reign. The team’s home opener is on Sunday, April 24 against the Washington Spirit.

Sky Blue FC’s Preseason Roster:

Goalkeepers: Brittany Anghel (Syracuse), Caroline Casey (William and Mary), Caroline Stanley (USC)

Defenders: Lindsi Cutshall (Brigham Young), Caitlin Foord (Australia), CoCo Goodson (UC-Irvine), Kristin Grubka (Florida State), Maya Hayes (Penn State), Meg Morris (North Carolina), Kelley O’Hara (Stanford), Christie Rampone (Monmouth), Erin Simon (Syracuse), Erica Skroski (Rutgers)

Midfielders: Nicole Baxter (William and Mary), Rachel Breton (Rutgers), Kelley Conheeney (Virginia Tech), Kim DeCesare (Duke), Theresa Diederich (Alabama), Shawna Gordon (Long Beach State), Sarah Killion (UCLA), Taylor Lytle (Texas Tech), Raquel Rodriguez (Penn State), Domi Richardson (Missouri), Nikki Stanton (Fairfield)

Forwards: Krystyna Freda (Winthrop), Leah Galton (Hofstra), Kelsey Haycook (La Salle), Tasha Kai (Hawaii), Sam Kerr (Australia), Danielle Schulmann (UConn)