MIAMI — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College has had numerous former student-athletes go on to play professional sports.
The NEO women’s soccer program can be added to that list.
Former Lady Norse midfielder Jennifer Cudjoe has signed to play with Blue Sky FC of the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League.
“It has always been a dream to play in this league,” Cudjoe said via phone Thursday afternoon. “I knew to play in this league I had to do what I could, which is work really hard.”
Blue Sky FC — the Beez — is based in Harrison, New Jersey, and plays its home matches at Red Bull Arena in Harrison.
It also is the home of the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer.
The NWSL is considered a top-division professional womens’ league in the United States.
Thanks to the success of the USA women’s national team, the sport is booming in America.
“It is something I have always dreamed of and wanted. It took me a longer time,” Cudjoe said. “I just had to navigate through some little things to make it happen. I knew I was going to make it, but I didn’t know how or when.”
Cudjoe played for coach Lisa Bell in 2013 and 2014 and was the player of the year in Region 2 as a sophomore — the only time a Lady Norse player has earned that honor.
Cudjoe was third nationally in shots (109, including 66 shots on goal), 18th with 18 goals and 43th in the NJCAA with 43 points on the season.
She transferred to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah for her junior season, but lost her senior year because of an NCAA technicality.
Cudjoe played semi-pro soccer in California.
“It's a big deal for us,” Bell said. “We haven’t had an all-American on the women’s side. We haven’t made it to the national tournament, but we have had some talented athletes come through, so it’s very nice to see them recognized and successful in the game.”
Cudjoe credits Bell with playing a key role in her advancement in the sport.
“She really, really helped me develop as a player and as a person,” Cudjoe said. “She has done so much for me.”
The NWSL will begin play on June 27 with the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, a 25-game tournament that will be played in Herriman, Utah.
Bell had hoped she would have had two go professional with midfielder Chloe Shipway — who earned All-Region II honors with the Lady Norse in 2017.
She received an invitation to join a team in Italy, but that is on hold because of coronavirus.