LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) will present University of Kentucky women’s soccer All-American Arin Gilliland with the 2014 Honda Inspiration Award on June 30 at 8 p.m. ET, at the USC Galen Center Founders Room in Los Angeles, it was announced by the CWSA on Friday afternoon.
“This is an absolutely amazing award to win and I am extremely humbled and honored to be the recipient,” Gilliland said. “This award means more to me than any award that I have ever received before in my life. I hope that my story has inspired people to go out and live their dreams. I think winning this award means a lot to me because it means that people can follow my footsteps and see how I have overcome the adversity in my life. I am absolutely speechless for the honor and I want to thank everyone involved in nominating me and also to the CWSA board members for electing me as the winner. There are a lot of prestigious winners of this award, and I am so proud to be joining that elite group of women.”
The Honda Inspiration Award is given to one female athlete a year who has overcome hardship and was able to return to play at the collegiate level. A call for nominations is annually sent to all school senior women administrators, sports information directors and athletic directors of all NCAA-sanctioned schools provides the candidates for this award. A special committee of the CWSA Board reads all the submitted materials for these candidates and narrows down the field to the most worthy candidates, before the entire Board of Directors chooses the yearly Inspiration Award winner.
“What strikes me the most when hearing that Arin won this prestigious award was how much she has grown so much in her time at Kentucky,” Kentucky head coach Jon Lipsitz said. “She has developed into an incredible leader for this team on and off the field and continues to be humble and gracious. Arin has overcome an incredible amount of adversity in her life and is truly an amazing story. We are thankful to have her in our program and honored to be a part of this wonderful awards ceremony.”
"Being awarded such a prestigious honor like the Honda Inspiration Award is something that Arin has absolutely deserved in her time at Kentucky,” UK director of athletics Mitch Barnhart said. “Since she stepped foot on campus three years ago, her passion and love for her team and school has been one of the driving forces in our recent women's soccer success. Arin has overcome a lot of obstacles in her life and has handled them exceptionally well. We are elated for Arin and could not be more proud of her for receiving this honor."
A two-time All-American, three-time All-SEC honoree and member of the United States National Team U-23 roster, Gilliland has inspired countless players and fans with her story since stepping foot in Lexington, Ky., in the spring of 2011. Gilliland’s mother, Letita, passed away from cancer in the summer of her sophomore season. Gilliland has continued to push forward, realizing her dreams of playing soccer for the United States National Team, as well as the University of Kentucky. Also in 2011, Gilliland tore her ACL in the 2011 SEC Tournament quarterfinal against Tennessee, and had to miss the rest of the season, including Kentucky’s first NCAA Tournament match since the 2006 season, and first time hosting an NCAA Tournament match since 1999.
“Arin put her family first and was a gift to her mother and father,” UK President Dr. Eli Capilouto said. “She has been a wonderful gift to her teammates every year here at Kentucky, and she will be an everlasting gift to the memories of all of the UK family.”
Named a team captain after the 2011 season, the Lexington, Ky., native took the 2013 season by storm, serving as one of Kentucky's three team leaders in the fall. Gilliland played over 1,800 minutes on the pitch for the Wildcats, rewriting the record books in a number of categories, and placing herself fifth all-time at UK with 77 career points in her three seasons en route to All-America honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
She collected 34 points, scored a career-high 12 goals, assisted on 10 goals – just one shy of the program record, - set a new school record in shots with 100, scored three game-winning goals and was named first team All-Southeastern Conference.
Past winners of the Inspiration Award, which Gilliland will receive, include Delle Donne, Andrea Mingo (Purdue) and Jessica Breland (North Carolina). Other women who have been honored by the CWSA for their athletics and personal accomplishments include Mia Hamm (North Carolina), Abby Wambach (Florida), Alex Morgan (California), Kristine Lilly (North Carolina), Brandi Chastain (California), Elena Delle Donne (Delaware), Maya Moore (UConn) and Candace Parker (Tennessee) and Kristy McPherson (South Carolina).
Gilliland is the first soccer player to win the award and the first athlete from the University of Kentucky to receive the honor.
As the 2014 Honda Inspiration Award winner, Gilliland will receive her award at a live televised ceremony in Los Angeles and will be joined by an impressive list of other Honda Cup winners including Abbey D’Agostino (Dartmouth, cross country), MarieElena Bolles (UConn, field hockey), Abby Dahlkemper (UCLA, soccer), Krista Vansant (Washington, volleyball), Felicia Lee (Stanford, swimming & diving), Breanna Stewart (UConn, basketball) and Kim Jacob (Alabama, gymnastics).
American Honda Motor Co., Inc., sponsor of the program, celebrates each nominee by donating $5,000 to each Honda Sports Award recipient school and $1,000 to each nominee’s school.
The CWSA has honored the nation’s top NCAA women’s athletes for 37 years, recognizing superior athletic skills, leadership, academic excellence and eagerness to participate in academic excellence. Since beginning its scholarship in 1986, Honda has provided more than 2.5 million dollars in institutional grants to universities of the award winners and nominees.