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Former Rutgers' players continue careers in professional ranks

<p>Senior defender Brianne Reed was the first Knight to ever be selected in the National&nbsp;Women's&nbsp;Soccer&nbsp;League Draft. The first team all-Big Ten member was drafted 18th overall by two-time defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City.</p>

Senior defender Brianne Reed was the first Knight to ever be selected in the National Women's Soccer League Draft. The first team all-Big Ten member was drafted 18th overall by two-time defending NWSL champions FC Kansas City.

The 2015 season was the longest and most successful year in the history of the Rutgers women’s soccer program.

And even though it's over, it just got even better.

On the field, the Scarlet Knights posted a 19-4-3 overall record with a 7-2-2 mark in the Big Ten Conference to reach the national semifinals for the first time in program history.

While they praised the team dynamic the whole season, two of the most pivotal performers in sparking the team’s postseason run and setting the school record of 19 shutouts were senior defenders Brianne Reed and Erica Skroski.

The veteran pair helped to form arguably the most effective backline in the country. Moving forward, the two will continue their soccer careers in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

Reed was selected 18th overall by FC Kansas City, which is the two-time defending champion of the NWSL.

Skroski was drafted by Sky Blue FC, which plays its home games at Yurcak Field — the same home field as Rutgers where the Knights went undefeated this season (13-0-1).

The pair is the first from Rutgers to be drafted for the NWSL.

It is another big accomplishment for the program as a whole, adding to the list of what was the arguably the most memorable season the team has ever had.

“We’re all excited about this for Bri and Skro,” said the Knights' two-year head coach Mike O’Neill. “From the players, to the staff, to the University, we’re proud of the way they represented Rutgers University both on and off the field for the last four years. To be selected in the NWSL Draft is really special.”

Reed and Skroski were part of the first senior class to lead the program to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Skroski, a Galloway native, won the Big Ten Defender of the Year Award for her performance throughout the season.

She joined Reed in garnering First Team All-Big Ten honors, as well.

They were captains on a team that featured a mix of veterans and underclassmen, but led the team to new heights and set great examples for what the coaching staff hopes to see in a Rutgers soccer player.

“Over the last four years, the Rutgers fans have been able to watch Bri and Erica grow as players and people,” O’Neill said. “The idea when you come into a program is to work hard, develop and get better. You want to make sure that the program was better because you were there, and that’s exactly what they did.”

Though they have earned many individual accolades in their careers, getting the opportunity to play professionally was still something that came as a welcomed surprise for Reed.

“It was unreal and unexpected because growing up, I don’t think I ever really had the dream of playing professional soccer because I never thought it was an option,” Reed said. “Being at this point is more than I could have asked for.”

Fellow seniors Hayley Katkowski and Cassie Inacio are also looking to play professional soccer.

Katkowski has been invited to the Sky Blue FC preseason, and Inacio will try to play overseas.

On a team that was loaded with playmakers on both ends of the field, the camaraderie between both sides was apparent throughout the season.

The team used the mantra "30 Strong," during the year to describe how each player on the roster was a valuable key to the team’s success both on and off the pitch.

Moving forward into their professional careers, Reed and Skroski plan to take the relationships they made at Rutgers and use them to be a part of solid team chemistry in the professional game.

“I’ll take away from my time here to make sure that I’m somewhere where it really feels like a team, beyond just the field,” Reed said. “Over my four years here, I felt like the group of girls I’ve been with have grown closer and closer, and I think that played a big part in our success.”

For updates on the Rutgers women’s soccer team, follow @Mike_OSully2 and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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