Illini of the Week September 1: Jannelle Flaws

Jannelle Flaws stands with 50 balls representing the record-setting 50 goals she has scored over her Illinois career.

By Jon Joffe

Editor’s Note: The Daily Illini sports desk sits down each week and decides which Illinois athlete or coach is our Illini of the Week. Athletes and coaches are evaluated by individual performance and contribution to team success.

Last week, when Illinois soccer forward Jannelle Flaws was a few goals away from becoming the program’s all-time leadering scorer, goalkeeper Claire Wheatley promised to bake her a cake to celebrate the accolade.

But despite Wheatley’s promise and the seeming inevitability of a broken record, Flaws knows that nothing in life is guaranteed.

She entered college in 2010 after attending Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois.

Two torn ACLs later, and Flaws is now in her sixth season of eligibility.

Flaws’ collegiate career hasn’t exactly followed the path she envisioned, but since her 23-goal season in 2013, she hasn’t looked back.

“I’ve always been a goal scorer, even in my club days and high school days,” Flaws said. “I’ve always had that vision of the kind of player I was, and I’ve always wanted to do this.”

Fast forward to Sunday, when Flaws not only broke Tara Hurless’ 47-goal scoring record, but also netted a hat trick in the opening 25 minutes of Illinois’ match against St. Louis to put an exclamation point on her much-anticipated night.

When she scored her first goal and broke the record in the 15th minute, Flaws immediately looked for head coach Janet Rayfield.

The two met on the sideline near the Illinois bench and embraced.

While the hug was a natural reaction, that record-setting moment for Flaws has been at the back of her mind for quite some time.

“Her belief in me, when I didn’t believe in myself, was a big motivator for me to get back on the field,” Flaws said. “To get that moment was huge, but to be able to share it with someone like herself who’s meant so much to me and my career was even more special.”

Rayfield has been there for every moment of Flaws’ Illini career

Having that moment with Flaws was fitting for a coach who has seen someone at their best, and worst.

“She turned and started coming this way, and I stepped out and there wasn’t anybody between us,” Rayfield said. “It was sort of a natural thing that happened.”

Rayfield saw a natural goal scorer when she recruited Flaws back in high school. She said Flaws’ knack for scoring is “intangible.”

While Rayfield might be one of her biggest supporters, it is no secret that Flaws is her own biggest critic. She can describe every goal she had in her first season on the field with the Illini.

Flaws only had three goals in what was – by her standard– a huge disappointment.

For the redshirt senior, that season was a disaster and is partially what continues to motivate her to run up the scoring numbers and take advantage of every chance she gets.

“I guess it meant something to me, but I was not very fond of that season,” Flaws said of her first collegiate goal. “I don’t know if I would call it a very proud moment, but it was definitely the start to my goal scoring here.”

Flaws’ 2011 season was bracketed by her two torn ACLs — one in the Summer of 2010 and one in the Spring of 2012 — and marked the last time Flaws wasn’t the Illini’s star player.

The record-breaking goal did mean something to Flaws. It was validation for just how far she had come.

The celebration was also made special in part because Hurless was in attendance to present the game ball to Flaws after the match.

The two scorers met back when Flaws was a freshman, and have communicated ever since.

“She’s a stats girl,” Hurless said. “She always said that was a goal, to beat my record.”

For Hurless, it was an emotional moment, “to say the least” when she presented the ball to Flaws. It was the first time that Hurless had walked onto the field – which she once dominated – since she graduated.

And while breaking Hurless’ scoring record at Illinois could be seen as the icing on the cake of Flaws’ storied career, if you ask her coach, she isn’t done yet.

“When she started scoring goals, you start doing the math, and you give her four years, 50 certainly wasn’t out of reach,” Rayfield said. “Who knows what that number is going to be by the time she finishes out.”

Regardless of the end number, Flaws welcomes the recognition.

“I want to get my name out there,” said Flaws. “I want to play after college.”

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