Select Kentucky’s Gilliland at number eight in NWSL Draft

CHICAGO, Ill. – The Red Stars have bolstered their roster with six of the nation’s top prospects in the 2015 NWSL College Draft, selecting Kentucky defender Arin Gilliland, Virginia midfielder-forward Danielle Colaprico, Santa Clara forward Sofia Huerta, Wisconsin forward Cara Walls, Washington State defender-midfielder Nicole Setterlund and Illinois State forward Rachel Tejada.

After picking Boston College forward Stephanie McCaffrey at number five and Gilliland at number eight, the staff around Head Coach Rory Dames and GM Alyse LaHue traded McCaffrey to Boston for the number nine and number eleven picks. These were subsequently used to select Colaprico and Huerta.

“There were four players that we initially identified that we thought could definitely help us,” explained Head Coach Dames. “We wanted to try and figure out how to get three of them. We were able to do that. Right off the bat, when we got the number nine and eleven [picks], that was huge for us. Arin (Gilliland), Danielle (Colaprico) and Sofia (Huerta) were three of the four that we thought could help us, so we’re extremely happy with those selections.”

A Kentucky native and star defender with the University of Kentucky, Gilliland emphasized the relative proximity between her home state and the state of Illinois and went on to give a confident outlook on the coming weeks and months.

“I’m extremely happy to be going to the Red Stars, especially because it’s so close to my family, friends and supporters,” she said. “The fact that it’s only about a five-hour drive and they can come watch me play is amazing. Of course I have to work hard and prove myself with the team, but I also know that it’s a very young roster and that there will probably be opportunities for me. I want to take advantage and take the club farther than it has gone before. That’s always been my mindset as a player.”

The sentiment was echoed by defender-midfielder Colaprico.

“It was definitely nerve-wrecking having to sit there and wait, but once my name was called, I was really happy to see that I was going to Chicago,” recalled the University of Virginia standout. “It’s something new for me and that’s exciting. I spoke to Rory (Dames) a couple of days ago about how I would fit in with the team and that was a good conversation, so I’m glad it’s becoming a reality. When I get to Chicago, I hope to have an immediate impact and show that I can help the team.”

Her usual personable self, forward Huerta did not hold back on her excitement about reuniting with Red Stars defender and U.S. international Julie Johnston. The two players’ career paths have crossed on and off for nearly a decade, as they were University of Santa Clara teammates and both represented the United States at the youth level, prior to Huerta accepting call-ups with the senior Mexican squad.

“When I first found out the Red Stars picked me, I was so excited because I’ve heard a lot of good things about the club from Julie and (former Chicago and U.S. star) Leslie Osborne, who was one of my coaches at Santa Clara,” said Huerta. “I have such a good feeling in my heart and think Chicago is the place to be for me, especially because Julie is there. I’ve played with her since I was 14 and we’ve spent so much time together. She’s always been a really good leader and someone I play well with.

“My first goal is to get signed. It’s a good experience to be drafted, but I know I really have to show up in preseason and prove myself. I want to be a good teammate and show that I’m ready to play at this level, and also to step up when the allocated players are gone.

At number 23 and 27, the Red Stars picked striker Walls and defender-midfielder Setterlund, respectively.

“Cara (Walls) was always a target for us in the third round because she fits in very well with the forwards we have,” offered Head Coach Dames. “We didn’t think Nicole (Setterlund) would actually be there at that point. I think she fell under the radar a bit, but she has a chance to be a very, very good player in the midfield for us. The fact she can also play in the back is obviously to her advantage.”

University of Wisconsin standout Walls provided evidence of her humble nature in her post-draft reaction.

“When I heard I was selected, I was just extremely excited and thankful, because I’ve played with and against so many awesome players in college and know how many of them also want this opportunity,” she said. “I’ve long dreamed of becoming a professional and can’t believe it’s actually happening. My goal is to give it my all in training and prove that I can make an impact when I’m entered into a game.”

Washington State star Setterlund struck a similar note when asked for her response to being selected by the Red Stars.

“Turning pro is something that I’ve always dreamed about but that I didn’t think would come so quickly,” said the Canadian youth international. “So it came as a complete surprise and I was elated and very emotional when I got the news. Now I just want to figure out what the team is all about and work on whatever I need to work on to help the team. I hope I can just fit in with the squad at the beginning and go from there.”

Dames and his staff made their final move in the fourth round, selecting Illinois State striker Tejada at number 32.

“Rachel has shown that she has the ability to score goals regardless of where she is around the box,” said the man in charge of the Red Stars. “If she can translate her goal-scoring form onto our level, then that’s a pretty good fourth-round pick. Remember that we grabbed Jen Hoy in the fourth round too, so that shows it’s not always about being the highest pick.”

Chicago fans can see all of their new and returning players in action throughout the 2015 NWSL campaign. Season tickets start at $145 and may be purchased by calling 773-697-8699 or by clicking here.

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