Lexington native Arin Gilliland became the first University of Kentucky player ever drafted by the fledgling National Women's Soccer League when she was chosen No. 8 overall Friday by the Chicago Red Stars.
The 2015 draft was the third in the league's history.
"I'm overjoyed to begin my career in Chicago," Gilliland said in a UK news release. "They were a team that I had my eye on entering the draft, and it made total sense to everyone for me to be a new member of the Red Stars. I want to thank (Chicago head coach) Rory Dames for his trust in selecting me, and (UK head coach) Jon Lipsitz for all that he did for me at Kentucky. This is a really exciting time for me and my family to be able to continue my dream of playing soccer professionally and ultimately make my goal of playing for the United States full Women's National Team and representing our country in World Cups and the Olympics."
Gilliland, the 2014 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, joins a Chicago team that is one of the youngest, but most talented in the league. Ten of its players are under age 25 not including Gilliland. Chicago finished fifth in the nine-team league with a 9-7-8 record last season, missing the playoffs by one position.
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"I could not be more excited for Arin to begin her career in Chicago." Kentucky Coach Jon Lipsitz said. "Arin is a player that came into Lexington and helped transform the culture of our program and helped get us to places that we have never been before. Now it is time for her to take the next step of her career with the Red Stars and I think it's a perfect fit for her."
Gilliland, who recently completed a training camp with the U.S. Under-23 National Team, scored 30 goals and charted 25 assists for 85 career points at Kentucky. Gilliland set UK records with 278 shots, with 81 of them coming on goal, and eight career game-winning goals.
"She is a player that gives unbelievable effort every day in training and plays her best on the biggest stages under the most pressure," Lipsitz said. "The entire coaching staff, as well as our team, former players and the Big Blue Nation will always hold a special place in our hearts for Arin and we can't wait to see her play at the next level this spring and eventually achieve her lifelong dream of playing on the full national team."
Gilliland, who played club soccer for Lexington FC and Ohio Elite, served as a captain on the two most successful seasons in UK history, as the Wildcats went 31-13-2 in her final two years. She helped lead UK to four straight NCAA Tournaments and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance.
The former West Jessamine High School standout was named All-SEC four times and was the Honda Inspiration Award winner in 2014.
The NWSL season runs April through August. The Red Stars kick off their season April 18 against the Seattle Reign in Chicago.
The league has franchises in Seattle; Kansas City, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Piscataway, N.J.; Elma, N.Y.; Boston and Houston.
The Houston Dash selected University of Virginia midfielder Morgan Brian with the No. 1 pick in the four-round draft.
The second, third and fourth choices were from UCLA — midfielder Sarah Killion to Sky Blue FC and defender Abigail Dahlkemper and midfielder Samantha Mewis, both to the Western New York Flash.
The fifth pick went to the Chicago, who took midfielder/forward Stephanie McCaffery of Boston College.
Western New York then had two more picks — Lynn Williams of Pepperdine and Jaelene Hinkle of Texas Tech — before Chicago selected Gilliland and Virginia's Danielle Colaprico to close out the first round.
Brian twice won the Hermann Trophy as the NCAA's top female soccer player. The senior had 10 goals and 14 assists in 18 games in 2014, helping the Cavaliers reach the NCAA finals for the first time.