Illinois soccer strong despite key injuries


Illinois’ Nicole Breece (11) has played well alongside senior forward Jannelle Flaws in freshman forward Kara Marbury’s absence. No. 19 Illinois continues to climb national rankings despite various injuries that have altered the starting roster.

By Joey Figueroa

Off to one of its best defensive starts in school history, No. 19 Illinois (8-2-0) continues to climb the national rankings with impressive Big Ten wins, doing so without being at full strength on the field. 

With two starters out of the lineup against Indiana and Purdue, the Illini still managed two more shutout victories while allowing just 10 total shots on the weekend. 

Freshman defender Sarah Warren filled in for junior defender Aliina Weykamp, who suffered a concussion last week in practice. Her teammates had nothing but praise for her efforts.

“Sarah was willing to listen and so willing to learn and communicate with us,” sophomore defender Hope D’Addario said. “I don’t think we could have asked for anyone better to fill that spot.”

Such has been the case all season for a banged up Illinois team that keeps finding ways to fill injury-created voids.

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    It all began when junior midfielder Taylore Peterson, who had started all but five games in the past two seasons, suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the preseason. The midfield hasn’t missed a beat though, with first-time regular starters Reagan Robishaw, Jenna Miller and Allison Stucky filling in for Peterson. 

    “The way they’ve pushed each other has allowed people to be able to step in and take the role of someone like Kara (Marbury) or Peterson,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “So this team is filling these holes because of how much work they’ve done in preparation for that.” 

    Freshman forward Kara Marbury has been out of the lineup since Big Ten play began with an injured foot and has worked well up front with senior forward Jannelle Flaws. 

    With seven goals in her last three games, it doesn’t seem like the personnel changes next to Flaws on the front line have been an issue, as other players have yet again stepped in to fill Marbury’s cleats.

    “I adjust to what they’re going to do next to me, and I just look at their strengths and then my strengths, to work with one another,” Flaws said.

    Just like the goalie battle earlier this season and the tough nonconference schedule, the Illini view injuries as another way to better themselves through experience.

    Key injuries are an outlet for untested players to step up and show their play, as Warren did last weekend. Rayfield is happy with the newly found depth Illinois has.

    “We’ve got five or six players now that can play on our backline and get the job done at the Big Ten level,” Rayfield said. “It gives me a little bit of a sigh of relief that we’ve got players now with some experience that we can put in that backline and be successful in the Big Ten.”

    While unproven players are given room to grow, injuries also allow the regulars to expand their games. Junior midfielder Nicole Breece has played well alongside Flaws in Marbury’s absence, and without Weykamp on the backline last weekend, D’Addario was forced to be more vocal on the field. 

    “That’s going to help us because now we put (Weykamp) back in the mix, and we have two players that are willing and experienced in terms of their communication,” Rayfield said. “Certainly that leadership has been helpful, and it only got enhanced by (D’Addario) having to step up and take a bigger role over the weekend.”

    Weykamp will return to action this weekend, while Marbury is still expected to miss a few more weeks.

    Joey can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @joeyfigueroa3.