Chicago, Ill. – Chicago Red Stars defender Michelle Lomnicki today announced her retirement from professional soccer, effective immediately. The 28-year-old ends her active career as a fan favorite and as the club’s longest-tenured player, having first laced up for Chicago seven years ago. In the final season of her career, she helped the Red Stars to their first ever postseason appearance as a professional franchise.

“Today I say thank you to the game that has given me so much,” Lomnicki offered in a statement. “I’m extremely blessed to have been given the opportunity to travel the world while playing soccer.”

The Aurora, Colorado, native originally joined the Red Stars in 2009 during the days of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and then again for the 2012 Women’s Premier Soccer League Elite (WPSL-E) campaign, following 2011 stints with Germany’s SC Freiburg and another WPS outfit, Sky Blue FC. In her first year back with Chicago, Lomnicki helped the side to an appearance in the WPSL-E championship match.

Chicago Head Coach Rory Dames, under whom Lomnicki played for four consecutive seasons, was full of praise for the model athlete.

“We’re very sad to see our longest-serving player go,” he said. “She was great to work with and an exceptional teammate. I wish her and (husband) Wes all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”

Following the 2012 campaign, Lomnicki continued with the Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and would remain a key member of the club through 2015, wearing the captain’s armband on several occasions. In total, she made 48 appearances and tallied three goals and two assists as defender.

Formerly known by her maiden name Wenino, Lomnicki played her college ball for the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she was honored as the 2008 Big 12 Conference Defensive Co-Player of the Year and as a two-time First-Team All-Conference selection.

“Michelle has dedicated years to the growth of the Red Stars and to women’s professional soccer as a whole,” offered Chicago General Manager Alyse LaHue. “She worked tirelessly on and off the field to help bring us to where we are today. It’s difficult to imagine a season without her and we’ll certainly miss her beaming face. I’m grateful for everything she has done for the club.”

Below is an open letter Lomnicki wrote to the fans.

The entire Chicago Red Stars organization would like to express its gratitude to Michelle Lomnicki for her years of service and wishes her all the the best for the future.

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Today I say thank you to the game that has given me so much. I have been extremely blessed to be given the opportunity to travel the world while playing the game I love. There comes a moment where every player has to say goodbye to their playing days. This sport has given me so much including long-lasting friendships, personal growth, and the opportunity to help inspire all of the young players who dream of playing in this league one day.

First, I have to say thank you to the Red Stars for taking a chance on me back in 2009. Emma and Denise provided me a great opportunity that helped me learn so much as a developmental player. Thank you to Rory for bringing me back to represent this club for a second time and for giving me a chance to further develop as a player and as a leader. To Arnim, your continued support of women’s soccer is invaluable. We have been given this incredible opportunity because of your passion to grow the women’s game. I can’t thank you enough for giving us the resources to play beyond college soccer.

Thank you to all my current and former teammates for making my experience as a professional soccer player an exciting and unforgettable adventure. I have created life long friendships and am very grateful for your support on and off the field over the years. To the fans, I can’t thank you enough for the support, not only for my career but also for the women’s game. This league is nothing without its fans!

To my mom and dad, thank you for pushing me to follow my dreams and supporting me in all my ventures. You have always been my number one fans from the moment I kicked a soccer ball to the last time I stepped off the pitch. You are the source of my strength, giving me the courage to dream big. Brian and Brad, the ones who instilled in me a passion for soccer at such a young age. I am extremely grateful to be your little sister and to follow your every move growing up. Thank you for your love and never ending support. 

Thank you to my wonderful husband, Wes, who has helped push me to be the best version of myself both on and off the field. I would not become half the player I was without you encouraging me every day. I am excited for what the future holds for us. 

It’s never an easy moment when your soccer career comes to a close, but the memories that soccer has given me will last forever. On to the next chapter, time to join all the Red Stars fans in the stands as my teammates and friends push toward an NWSL title. GO RED STARS!

Michelle Lomnicki, February 2016

 

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