Flaws' final Illini soccer season ends in first round of Big Ten tournament

By Daniel Collins

Despite having one of the most lethal scoring options in collegiate women’s soccer, the Illini failed to execute in crucial times during this season.

Illinois’ 2015 campaign started off on the right foot, but the team ultimately fell short of its goals and was eliminated in the first round of the Big Ten tournament by virtue of a 3–1 defeat to eventual national champion Penn StateRB.

Star moment

Star forward Jannelle Flaws came into the season needing five goals to set her name atop the program’s all-time scoring list. She achieved that mark in hat-trick fashion when she netted all of Illinois’ goals in its 3-1 victory against St. Louis in the fourth game of the seasonRB.

“I love the records, but love this team even more,” Flaws told the Illini Drive after her historic achievement.

Flaws, who noticeably started to struggle with plantar fasciitis, would go through a dry spell immediately after, scoring only six more goals for the duration of the year – two of which came in the last game of the season against MinnesotaRB and helped punch the Illini’s ticket into the Big Ten tournament.

Injuries strike key contributors

Flaws wasn’t the only Illini bitten by the injury bug. Senior Reagan Robishaw tore her ACL six games into the season – Illinois was 5-1-0 at that pointRB. The midfielder had two goals and two assists before her injuryRB.

“You don’t just pull out a piece and put someone else in that piece because they’re just not the same, they don’t have the same attributes and qualities,” said head coach Janet Rayfield when she first addressed Robishaw’s injury.

Freshman midfielder Katie Murraylb saw increased minutes after Robishaw went down, playing in the remainder of Illinois’ games.

If there’s one thing that Rayfield stressed a lot this season, it was that her team lacked on quality shots. Her midfield had spurts of creativity and didn’t have a shortage of shots, but many times those shots were off target.

Looking forward

Despite Flaws not being in her best form this season, filling her void is going to be Rayfield’s toughest task. Forward/midfield hybrid Nicole Breece also participated in her last Illini soccer campaign, making that two key players up front that the coaching staff needs to focus on replacingRB. All signs point toward sophomore Kara Marbury and freshman Patricia George to be in the wave of full-time forward options.

Marbury played in 17 games, starting in 16RB. She scored two goals in Illinois’ 3-1 win over NebraskaRB – the first multi-goal game of her career. She collected seven goals and two assists for the squadRB.

George played in 18, starting in one RBagainst Michigan – a 3-1 defeatRB. Sophomore Katherine Ratz played in 16 games for Illinois, tallying one goal on her stat sheetRB.

Rayfield will return many of the key players in her defense. Hope D’Addario, arguably Illinois’ most solid defender, will be one of the main anchors of that backline and goalkeeper Claire Wheatley will be back for her senior season.

If Robishaw elects to redshirt, she’ll provide a much-needed spark on the flanks for the Illini, allowing them to stretch the field a little more.

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