Illinois sophomore experiences 1st goal in win over Louisville

Eighty-seven minutes into the Illinois soccer team’s 3-0 win over Louisville there was a shot, followed by a roar.

Sophomore forward Marissa Holden had scored the game’s third goal.

But the goal had more significance than just sealing the Illini win over No. 24 Louisville, a win that was rewarded with the Orange and Blue’s first NSCAA Top-25 ranking of the season at No. 20.

When Holden received junior Marissa Mykines’ perfectly threaded pass between two Cardinal defenders and buried it in the lower-left corner of the net, it was the Murphy, Texas native’s first collegiate goal.

The emotion felt after scoring one’s first collegiate goal has no definition. For some, it’s indescribable. Some scream and yell, others breathe a sigh of relief and others just can’t help but smile. But no matter what their reaction is, it’s a memory that, for many, lasts forever.

“Everyone was running at me, jumping up and down and dancing,” Holden said. “It was a monkey off my back. I’m a strong believer in that if you get one, the rest will follow.”

Senior Jordan Hilbrands can attest to that statement. She scored her first goal as a sophomore in 2008 and is now the active career goals leader for Illinois.

Hilbrands’ memory is a little hazy when it comes to that goal, but there’s one distinct detail she recollects.

“It was off my left foot,” Hilbrands said.

When Hilbrands recalled the goal, what she felt was a sense of relief more than any other emotion.

And despite having scored many more since that day, she said it’s still sweet.

“I had come really close a lot of times, so it was nice to finally get it,” Hilbrands said. “Sometimes the ball would hit off the cross bar, but I finally got it in. I knew I could score, and my teammates knew I could score; it was about getting on the score sheet.”

While Holden and Hilbrands had to wait until their sophomore seasons to notch their first goals, it only took freshman Vanessa DiBernardo 12 minutes to achieve the same feat. The Big Ten Conference’s points leader scored in Illinois’ 2-0 season-opening win against Loyola-Chicago on Aug. 20.

“It’s an exciting thing to score your first college goal; I didn’t think it would come that early,” DiBernardo said.

Senior Danielle Kot, who first scored in 2007, had more vivid emotions after scoring her first goal than DiBernardo. The Illini co-captain scored the first of her two career goals as a freshman. The second? It came off of a DiBernardo corner-kick in the Loyola-Chicago win.

“I was screaming. I don’t even think after I score a goal. I get super ecstatic,” Kot said. “I don’t score a lot of goals so any that I do score is a memorable one.”

Head coach Janet Rayfield, who doesn’t remember her first goal, said some players who enter the collegiate game after having scored a lot in their high school careers tend to press for that first goal.

“If you come in and that’s one of your really strong attributes and that’s the thing that separated you from other players and it takes you a while to get that first goal, those players start to feel a sense of struggle the most,” Rayfield said. “At this level, there’s probably more relief and that sort of thing than there is excitement.”

And what does she tell her players after they have finally make their mark on the score sheet? “I didn’t know it was Marrissa Holden’s first collegiate goal,” Rayfield admitted.

“For some players, it really validates a process for them. Anything you do that’s a step forward is what’s memorable. You remember those things that exhibit that a player has gone somewhere they haven’t gone before.”