UML River Hawks

River Hawks goalie joins Finnish pro soccer team

North Billerica Native to Join GBK at Semester’s End

LOWELL (Apr. 13, 2010) – The working world can wait, says UMass Lowell senior Jamie Gillis, perhaps the best goalkeeper in NCAA Division II women’s soccer last fall.

Gillis will graduate with a degree in business management in May, but she wants to keep playing soccer.

The North Billerica, MA, native signed a professional contract with Gamlakarleby Bollklubb (GBK) of Finland’s first division Saturday alongside head coach Elie Monteiro and GBK assistant coach Robert Ahstrom.

The one-year deal with GBK (financial details undisclosed) includes the possibility of promotion to Finnish premier league outfit PK35, which was promoted from the first division this year.

“I’m a little nervous, but want to experience something new and just get better there,” said Gillis, UMass Lowell’s first women’s soccer player to sign a professional contract. “I want to keep playing.

“Obviously it would be great if I can make it to the premier league, but I’m just going to try to get better and push myself and maybe something will happen.”

Gillis will join her GBK teammates on May 31. She will miss the first three matches of the season due to graduation.

“(GBK) like her size (5-9), that was No. 1,” said Monteiro. “They also liked the fact that she is comfortable with her feet. She has very good technique and reads the game well. Those things will continue to get better with the higher the level that she plays.

“The level of play is much higher (than NCAA Division II),” he added. “They are thrilled to have her.”

Gillis is the latest UMass Lowell student-athlete to sign a professional contract in recent weeks. She joins six members of the hockey team – Carter Hutton and Ben Holmstrom (AHL Adirondack Phantoms), Nick Schaus (AHL Worcester Sharks), Jeremy Dehner (AHL Norfolk Admirals), Nevin Hamilton(AHL Providence Bruins) and Barry Goers (ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers) – who recently inked deals.

Gillis also drew interest from the Boston Breakers over the winter and was invited to a series of tryouts by head coach Tony DiCicco.

Monteiro had compiled a highlight clip of Gillis shortly after she expressed interest in playing overseas following graduation. He sent the clip to several contacts in Finland, which eventually ended up in the hands of Ahstrom, who liked what he saw.

GBK is located in the city of Kokkola in central Finland on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia across from Sweden, roughly 300 miles northwest of the capital Helsinki.

Gillis earned a plethora of honors during her four years at UMass Lowell. Among them, she and senior defender Kathleen Strazzere (Wilmington,MA), are the first-ever women’s soccer All-Americans at the University.

Gillis was also named to the NSCAA East Region teams four straight years, the last two on the first team. She was also twice named the Northeast-10 Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and a First Team All-Conference standout.

Over the last four years, Gillis helped lead the River Hawks to a record of 41-24-14, which included three appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Last fall, the River Hawks posted a 12-5-4 clip (10-3-2 in the NE-10, third place) and advanced to the NE-10 Tournament semifinal and the NCAA Tournament first round.

Gillis ranked among 2009 NCAA Division II leaders in save percentage (third, .889, 72/79), goals against average (fourth, 0.45) and shutout percentage (fifth, .667/14).

She set an NCAA Division II record for consecutive shutout minutes – 1,333 – which began in the 13th minute of a 3-1 at Stonehill Sept. 9 and ended in the 102nd minute of a 1-0 loss at Saint Rose on Oct. 24.

Gillis, who played every minute of every match in her career, compiled 7,453 minutes, which ranks as the second-highest total in Division II history. She capped her career with a slew of other school records, among them matches (79), shutouts (38) and goals against average in a career (0.809).

Gillis is the daughter of James and Denise Gillis of North Billerica, MA.