Silber reflects on soccer roots


The Daily Illini File Photo

Sophomore forward Makena Silber shoots the ball during Illinois’ game against Indiana at the Illinois Soccer Stadium on Oct. 14, 2018. Silber began playing soccer at age 4 and comes from an athletic background.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world. Some kids sign up for recreational leagues, while some dream of becoming the next Alex Morgan.

For Illinois sophomore forward Makena Silber, becoming the next Alex Morgan was a dream she had from the start of her playing career. She began playing soccer at age four, unafraid to make fashion statements on the field, even if she didn’t know better.

“(My) earliest memory would probably be me wearing my shin guards on the outsides of my socks,” Silber said. “I was that kid.”

Silber’s father, Chad, played football at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Silber’s mother, Jennifer, was a swimmer. She comes from an athletic background, having also played basketball until high school when she decided to focus on soccer full-time.

“I played a lot of different sports,” Silber said. “Soccer just kind of stuck. My parents were a big part of that, and I’m a big kid. I’ve always been a big kid, so I think just having somewhere to run fast and go at people has been a lot of fun.”

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    Silber said she was inspired to focus on soccer by her youth coach who surprised Silber at the Illini’s game on Sunday. Silber scored two goals within five minutes.

    “I would say she’s the one who instilled the most belief in me,” Silber said. “(Head coach) Janet (Rayfield) had a big role in my soccer career since the recruiting process started.”

    In high school, Silber moved to Crystal Lake, Illinois, from Erie, Pensylvania. She transferred from a small, all-girls school to a large, co-ed high school. Silber had already committed to Illinois when she moved.

    “(It was) probably one of the hardest things in my life,” Silber said. “It was a difficult transition, but soccer helped a lot in just forming friendships.”

    Silber graduated early from high school, which she said benefited her career at Illinois. Currently, she leads the team in goals with four this season.

    In Silber’s free time, she enjoys traveling, trying different foods and working out. The Illini said she enjoys “anything that’ll get me out and moving,” including CrossFit. Her mother owned a CrossFit gym, so Silber was around the sport and its athletes a lot growing up.

    Over the summer, Silber traveled to Colombia for a mission trip. She said the trip has been her favorite experience traveling to date, also adding her ideal vacation spot is “anywhere with a beach or mountains.”

    Although Silber said she doesn’t have any trips planned in the near future, she keeps busy with soccer. In her limited downtime, she enjoys Netflix and exploring the local food scene.

    “I don’t have cable at my apartment, (because) I never watch TV,” Silber said.

    Silber’s favorite food is pizza, a fitting favorite for an Illinois resident. Like many Illini, Silber is partial to Papa Del’s, her favorite restaurant in the area.

    “If I could pick one food for the rest of my life, it would be pizza,” Silber said. “I’m (going to) keep it simple and say pepperoni, but I can go for a good barbecue chicken pizza.”


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