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Kealia Ohai lands in Houston, where family awaits

Kealia Ohai was the first player ever drafted out of college by the Dash. She has yet to reach the playoffs or enjoy a winning season. (Photo by Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Kealia Ohai wil play for the Houston Dash after being selected second overall. (Photo by Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

PHILADELPHIA — When Kealia Ohai’s senior season at North Carolina began, the Houston Dash didn’t exist.

The Dash weren’t even reality when the NCAA season ended in early August, but on Dec. 12, the National Women’s Soccer League added its ninth team and quickly turned an improbable scenario into reality.

Ohai’s sister, Megan, lives in Houston and is married to Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing. Megan played collegiately at USC from 2007-10.

“It’s funny, this August me and my sister joked about trying to start a team in Houston, because I love Houston so much,” Ohai said. “Then we heard the news that there might be a team and everyday it got a little bit more serious. Then there was the team, then they had the No. 2 pick and it was the most incredible – the craziest thing that has ever happened to me. I’m so excited.”

Ohai was selected second overall by the Dash in the 2014 NWSL College Draft. She carries an international-caliber name with her to Houston as the scorer of the game-winning goal in the 2012 U-20 Women’s World Cup final, which she followed up three months later with the game-winner in the NCAA title game.

This season with UNC, Ohai had 11 goals and eight assists for 28 points, finishing second on the team behind Dunn, who had 34 points.

The family connection for Ohai to Houston was obvious to the many as soon as the Dash were announced.

“As soon as I took the job I knew it was what we were going to do,” Dash coach Randy Waldrum said.

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, husband of Megan Ohai, was publicly supportive throughout the process of the Dash announcing the team and was excited to see his sister-in-law drafted to their home city.

Ohai recently moved up to the U.S. U-23 team following her 2012 U-20 World Cup triumph. Waldrum coached that U-23 team in 2013.

“It says so much about coach Waldrum,” Ohai said. “I’ve had him for one camp with the Under-23s and he’s an incredible coach. When I heard that he was going to the Houston Dash I thought, ‘they are so lucky to have him.’ I know it was hard for him to leave Notre Dame, because it’s such an incredible program and they’ve done such great things. But I think it just shows his dedication to growing the sport in this country.”

Dash coach Randy Waldrum will likely look to implement Ohai’s speed and as a major part of the team from the get-go.

“We knew all along we were going to be taking her,” he said. “She’s got unbelievable pace; she can stretch defenses with her pace and get behind. She’s shredded my Notre Dame teams a few times over the years. It’s nice actually to get her on my team for a change.”

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