The Utah Royals used their first-ever draft pick on a player from the Beehive State.
With the 14th overall choice (fourth of the second round) of the NWSL College Draft Thursday morning, the Royals selected former Alta High School and BYU defender Taylor Isom.
As the first round of the draft was unfolding, analysts started mentioning Isom's name as a possible selection. Having seen mock drafts that pegged her as a second or third-round pick, the 2016 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year entered Thursday with an open mind, but hoped Utah would choose her so she could stay home.
About 10 seconds after the Royals were officially on the clock, Isom got a call from a number she didn't recognize, but she went outside to take it. On the other end of the line was Utah head coach Laura Harvey, who said, "Girl, you're staying home."
Crying, Isom ran back back into her house and shared an emotional moment with her family.
"It was a moment I'll share with my family forever," Isom said. "It was indescribable."
As a senior with the Hawks in 2011, Isom was a first-team all-state selection.
"Obviously they're taking a gamble on me and I want to give them everything that I have," Isom said. "I just want to go in and soak in being part of the Royals and being around the players that I'm going to be. I'm going to be playing with Becky Sauerbrunn and Kelley O'Hara. I can't even wrap my head around it...I'm living a dream."
The way Harvey saw it, Isom was the best among the group of players Utah was targeting with the 14th pick, regardless of where she was from.
“Honestly when I was looking at the players, it was a little bit of a coincidence that she was local," Harvey said. "The more I watched her, the more I compared her to other players that we were looking at in that position. She stood out on her performances, and then the fact that she was local was just the icing on the cake for us.”
With its other pick of the draft, Utah took Duke goalkeeper EJ Proctor 34th overall. As a senior for the Blue Devils in 2017, the Wilson, North Carolina, native was a First Team All-ACC selection.
Goalkeeper is a challenging position for a player just out of college to break into at the pro level, but Harvey said, “I think we’re going to put her in an environment where she can thrive.”
Just before the draft began, the Royals traded the 25th overall pick in the draft and Yael Averbuch to the Seattle Reign in exchange for midfielder Diana Matheson.
This marked the second time in two years that an organization Harvey has been a part of has traded for Matheson. Serving as the Reign's general manager in 2017, Harvey traded Arielle Ship to the Washington Spirit in exchange for Matheson.
Matheson did not play in 2017, however, as she tore her ACL. She has tallied 23 goals over the course of her NWSL career.
“Diana is like the ultimate professional," Harvey said. "Fantastic person, fantastic teammate, a player that as a coach, you just love to have on your team because yes she wants to be successful herself, but...it’s not all about her. It’s definitely about the team.”
The second Canadian midfielder to join the team this week after Desiree Scott officially did Monday, Matheson totals 169 caps for the Canadian senior team but Harvey feels as though her new player will be motivated over the next 18 months to ensure a spot on that team for the 2019 World Cup.
The move for Matheson is the second trade Utah made to move a draft pick for a player, as it sent the fourth overall pick (which became West Virginia's Michaela Abam) to Sky Blue FC as part of the deal that netted them O'Hara and Taylor Lytle.
"I think having players with international experience, experience with what this league is about, can be a vital asset to getting a good start," Harvey said, "and I think in this league if you can get a good start, you’ll always have a good chance of being successful.”
With the 23rd overall pick (third of third round) on Thursday, Isom's BYU teammate Nadia Gomes was taken by the Orlando Pride. The forward from Portugal was the WCC Player of the Year in 2015 and a second-team conference selection in 2016.
Gomes prepped at Brighton High School, where she was the 2013 5A MVP.