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UNC's Fox, Pinto Are Top Picks In NWSL Draft

UNC defender Emily Fox plays in the 2019 ACC Tournament semifinals at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.
Mitchell Northam

A pair of players from UNC-Chapel Hill were selected in the first round of the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League Draft on Wednesday night.

Senior Emily Fox – who can play as a defender or in the midfield – was drafted first overall by Racing Louisville FC, an expansion club new to the league this season. Taken third overall by New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC was Briana Pinto, a junior midfielder for Anson Dorrance’s Tar Heels.

Pinto, a native of Durham who attended Charles E. Jordan High School, announced on Twitter earlier this week that she would turn pro after playing this spring season for the Tar Heels. She is a two-time All-ACC selection and has notched 23 goals and 16 assists across 65 appearances with UNC.

The selections of Fox and Pinto make it the third time that two players from UNC have been taken in the first round of the NWSL Draft. This year marked the ninth annual college draft for the league, which began play in 2013.

Additionally, UNC redshirt senior midfielder Taylor Otto was drafted with the first pick of the draft’s second round. The Apex native will join Fox in Louisville.

Sandwiched between Fox and Pinto at the No. 2 pick was 18-year-old forward Trinity Rodman. The daughter of NBA Hall of Fame rebounder Dennis Rodman was drafted by the Washington Spirit.

Fox is a rarity in the NWSL’s college draft, in that she’s a player who has experience playing with the U.S. senior women’s national team. She’s played in three games with the four-time World Cup champs and is in camp with the squad now in Florida.

Across 69 starts with UNC, Fox tallied 20 assists and a pair of goals. With Fox, UNC won a pair of ACC tournament titles and finished as runners-up twice in the College Cup.

“I feel like it’s a very unique opportunity for me to go on there and try to do as best that I can and work my way up, and do anything I can for the team,” Fox said. “I'm just so excited to be there and be part of the team."

The Cary-based NC Courage selected Florida forward and Canadian national Deanne Rose with the 10th overall pick, and then added Auburn defender Alyssa Malonson and Vanderbilt defender Myra Konte in the later rounds.

“The North Carolina Courage are a very respected team in the NWSL as well as they have world-class players,” Rose said. “I am excited to grow alongside those players and the opportunity to be in one of the best leagues in the world.”

Joining Pinto at Sky Blue FC will be Duke's Tess Boade, who was selected with the final pick of the night. Wake Forest's Hannah Betfort was drafted by the Portland Thorns in the fourth round too.

Because of COVID-19, the draft was held virtually and streamed on Twitch.

The NWSL has not announced an official start date for its ninth season.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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