Asante and Blank are the first two players to rejoin the team for 2012 (Photos by ISI Photos).
Defender Anita Asante, Midfielder Carolyn Blank Returning to Team
In a busy week for Sky Blue FC of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), the team announced on Thursday that it has come to terms with English international defender Anita Asante and New Jersey native Carolyn Blank. Both players were regular starters for Sky Blue FC during the 2011 season, and the duo is the first pair of players to re-sign with the club for the upcoming year of play.
“When we looked over players to bring back from last year, Anita was certainly one at the top of the list,” Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra remarked. “I know she also wants to settle down in this area, and it is important to have players who can bring year-round awareness to the team, both during the season and in the offseason. She is the perfect model for what we want Sky Blue FC to represent.”
A native of London, Asante was a key figure in bringing the inaugural WPS Championship to Sky Blue FC in 2009. When Gabarra took over the reins in New Jersey before the 2011 campaign, she was one of the first players he signed to the club and locked her into a starting role as a central defender. Prior to arriving in WPS, she spent 10 years with Arsenal before signing with Chelsea Ladies of the English Women’s Premier League in 2008. Among her club highlights in Europe include a stellar 2006-07 campaign that saw the Lady Gunners win the UEFA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s Cup, FA Women’s National Premier League Championship and FA Women’s Premier League Cup. On the international scene, Asante has been a member of the English National Team since 2004, helping the Three Lionesses to the 2009 Cyprus Cup Championship and playing in each of the past two FIFA World Cups.
“We are delighted to bring Anita back,” assistant coach Emma Hayes stated. “I have known Anita for a number of years, and I can honestly say she is one of the best players with whom I have ever worked. She is technically good enough to play for any team in the world, and we are blessed to have her back. I am excited to be working with her again.”
One of the most prolific players in New Jersey high school soccer history, Blank won four Most Valuable Player Awards and became the all-time leading scorer at Toms River High School East before heading to play at West Virginia University. She helped the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament each season she played in Morgantown, receiving NSCAA All-America accolades after both her junior and senior years. She also holds the program record with 92 games played, all of which were starts. For her college career, she totaled 13 goals and seven assists.
“Carolyn is our first Jersey Girl to sign with us this year,” Gabarra noted. “She did a great job for us last season on the field. She also has a big following here in New Jersey and is willing to do all the little things it takes to make soccer successful in this area.”
Blank was drafted by Saint Louis Athletica in the 2010 WPS Draft and started all six matches she played there, contributing a goal to the offensive cause. When the team closed operations, she was then signed by the Atlanta Beat and went on to make eight more starts in 13 games played. After free agency opened last offseason, Gabarra quickly secured a deal to bring her home to New Jersey. Over her sophomore campaign, the Toms River native made 17 starts for Sky Blue FC and tallied a critical 88th minute game-winning goal in a midseason win over the Boston Breakers.
“Carolyn is a proven WPS player, and she is a wonderful person who will bring a great deal to this team,” Hayes commented. “She is incredibly hard working and loyal to New Jersey, and we look forward to her continued development in WPS.”
While terms have been reached with both Asante and Blank, all team transactions are not official until confirmed by WPS.
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