Making program history Saturday, Virginia Tech midfielder Emily Gray became the highest National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft selection to hail from Blacksburg as the Hokies’ co-captain was taken at No. 3 overall by the North Carolina Courage during the first round of the 2022 draft.
Upon hearing her name come off the board, Gray joins Tech legends Jazmine Reeves (2014) and Mandy McGlynn (2020) as the program’s third all-time NWSL draft selection.
“There are not enough words to describe today,” Gray said. “I was just watching the TV screen, and once I heard my name called, I was shocked. I am really excited and grateful for the opportunity.”
“This is so exciting for Emily and her family,” said Tech women’s soccer head coach Chugger Adair. “I think this is a wonderful day for the program. It shows the type of environment we strive for here at Virginia Tech: continuing to push our student-athletes to the next level and to be the best they can be.”
With several NWSL clubs expressing interest in selecting her during the week’s lead-up to draft day, Gray shot into the top 10 on many mock draft boards. After Stanford’s Naomi Girma (2021 Pac-12 Defender of the Year) and Florida State’s Jaelin Howell (2021 ACC Midfielder of the Year) had respectively been taken at No. 1 and No. 2 overall, North Carolina made its move to scoop up the Tech attacker before the rest of the league could bid its first-round turns.
Playing their home matches at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. – frequent site of the ACC Women’s Soccer Championship – the Courage offer Gray a familiar geographic location from where her professional career can take root.
“East coast is definitely closer to home and probably where I would love to be the most,” said Gray. “North Carolina is not too far away. Tech has played at that stadium before. I hope my current teammates can come watch me play with my future teammates.”
On a tactical level, Adair is confident the Courage are proper suitors for the Hokies’ No. 2 all-time leading point-earner.
“We think going to North Carolina and the system that they play will be a wonderful fit for her,” said Adair.
Having started each of her 69 career appearances at Tech, Gray anchored a four-year stretch of Hokies history that yielded three NCAA tournament berths (2018, 2019, 2021), a trip to the 2018 Sweet Sixteen and midseason top-20 national rankings during the 2019 and 2021 campaigns. Along the way, she scored 27 career goals with the Hokies (ranking in a tie for the fourth most all-time) while tallying 24 career assists (ranking second all-time).
Among her collegiate accolades, she is a two-time All-ACC honoree, a three-time United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region selection, and also earned 2021 United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-American Third Team distinction. She graduated from Virginia Tech on Friday with her bachelor’s degree in sports media and analytics with a 3.96 GPA through the spring 2021 semester.
“I think Emily has grown on and off the pitch here,” said Adair. “On behalf of the program, the staff and the players, we are proud of her, are extremely excited, and are so pleased that she represents Virginia Tech so well.”
For Gray, the next stage in her soccer career comes with the deepest appreciation for all who have helped her reach this point.
“I would like to thank my family, who was with me today,” said Gray. “I would also like to thank my closest friends, all my teammates, freshman through senior year. I am grateful for the coaching staff for giving me this opportunity to play at Tech.
“Additionally, I would like to thank the support staff, those in academic support services, student-athlete development, the video team, athletic communications, and especially those in sports medicine. They know me all too well in there. Everyone has been so supportive of my dreams, and I am really excited to move on to this next chapter.”