Offseason ‘vacation’ prepares Illinois Soccer

By Matt Gertsmeier

Hope D’Addario spent part of her time in August on the beach in Glen Arbor, Michigan. However, D’Addario wasn’t there for a summer vacation. Instead, she and the Illinois soccer team were on the shores of Lake Michigan for preseason training. 

The team’s trip to Michigan provided time away from campus and a unique training environment. The team also scrimmaged Virginia in a three, 30-minute period game, rather than two 45-minute halves. 

Workouts consisted of usual soccer training on a practice field and included inclined running up the sand dunes on the beach. The Illini not only improved physically during their time in Michigan, but the trip strengthened team chemistry, which D’Addario thinks was just as important.

“We’re trying to know each other’s tendencies,” the junior said. “We’re trying to be able to read each other a little better and that comes from team building, that comes from practicing, that comes from doing things outside of soccer too.”

This year Illinois hopes to utilize the offseason training and team-building and improve from last season’s record of 9-9-2. The Illini also want to have a deeper postseason run after losing in the first-round of last year’s Big Ten Tournament and missing the NCAA Tournament.

Illinois coach Janet Rayfield believes last year’s poor postseason will motivate this year’s squad.

“Those are things that you come to expect when you put on an Illinois uniform,” Rayfield said. “I think especially our seniors, they want to go out with the expectations that this program is expected to be.”

The Illini’s chances of an NCAA Tournament appearance may be improved with the return of senior Jannelle Flaws. Flaws was granted a sixth year of eligibility due to missing two seasons with knee injuries. 

Flaws scored 17 goals and recorded three assists last season. Her 17 goals were 12th-best in the NCAA. Flaws is just four goals away from the Illinois all-time scoring record, Tara Hurless’ 47 goals.

Rayfield believes having Flaws for another season will not only provide the Illini with a goal-scoring threat, but also free up other players for scoring chances. Illinois’ other scoring threats this upcoming season are sophomores Allison Stucky, Kara Marbury and senior Reagan Robishaw.

The team will play the season under the shadow of $50,000 lawsuit filed against Rayfield and the University by former player Casey Conine over the summer. Conine allegedly stated she was not treated properly for concussions she received while playing at Illinois.

As the season gets underway, the Illini can look forward to national exposure at the Husky Nike Invitational on Sept. 4 in Seattle, Washington, and a conference schedule of 11 of the 13 other Big Ten teams. Illinois will not face 2014 Big Ten Champion Penn State and 2014 Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin. 

D’Addario hopes the team’s focus will eventually lead to a shot at the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Tournament. 

“I think if you ask any Big Ten team that’s going to be their goal, but I think for us, we’re really striving towards that because we know we have a really great chance for it,” D’Addario said. “We’re trying to take things one step at a time, but since we didn’t make the NCAA Tournament last year, we know that in the back of our minds, that’s what we want most. We’re really not going to stop pushing until we reach the first one and then hopefully reach the second one.”

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