Kendra Pasquale leaves legacy of hard work, passion at Illinois soccer after five years with program

Redshirt+senior+Kendra+Pasquale+stands+in+front+of+Loyolas+goal+during+awaiting+Illinois+corner+kick+on+Sept.+11.+

Angel Saldivar

Redshirt senior Kendra Pasquale stands in front of Loyola’s goal during awaiting Illinois’ corner kick on Sept. 11.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

All great things must come to an end, and after five years with Illinois soccer the time has come for redshirt senior midfielder Kendra Pasquale to hang up her collegiate jersey. The Illini midfielder arrived at the program having to redshirt as a freshman but leaves as one of the most dangerous players to have ever taken the pitch in Champaign.

While the midfielder led the team in scoring and had a fantastic final season from an individual standpoint, Pasquale’s focus from the beginning was never on independent achievements. Instead, she continually chose to focus on the selfless side of soccer and the things she could do for the team’s benefit collectively.

“Throughout this season I wanted to take the time to give back to this program everything it gave me,” Pasquale said. “I pride myself on showing up every day and working hard. From a stats perspective, it’s not like I was coming in here saying I want to break this record or do that. I honestly just wanted to be able to give this program everything I had and give this team everything I had.”

In another year of mixed results, Illinois finished the 2022 season with a 7-7-4 overall record, missing out on the postseason. However, despite the ups and downs the team experienced, the Illini fans continued to show up and cheer on the program from the stands of Demirjian Park.

In particular for Pasquale, the support of her family and the rest of the Illini faithful at home games was an instrumental reason behind her consistent play on the pitch.

“Our fans have been incredible,” Pasquale said. “I know, at least personally, my family shows up to a lot of the games so being able to have them there is awesome. But again, coming to college you’re not always going to have your family there so this University and our fans became a second family for me. Being able to step out onto the pitch every home game and just see all the fans in the stands really gives a sense of what it means to be an Illini.”

The Naperville native was a creative spark for the Illini midfield and quickly emerged as a distinct leader for the squad. Simply put, Pasquale was a workhorse in the middle of the park for Illinois and could be found all over the field during matches. The 2022 season was the first in which head coach Janet Rayfield made the decision to move Pasquale primarily into a midfield role, with the redshirt senior playing as a defender in years prior.

It was a tactical change that ended up being an incredibly successful one, with Pasquale not only involved in defending but also in the attack. With five goals and one assist in 18 matches played, the midfielder not only led the team in goals scored but also in overall points earned.

Pasquale’s goals also came in clutch for the Illini on more than one occasion. On Sept. 4, the midfielder’s goal against Indiana State was crucial in a narrow 3-2 win. Four days later, Pasquale would score the deciding goal against Missouri for the 1-0 triumph. On Oct. 8, the redshirt senior would claim three points in the Big Ten after scoring both goals against Purdue for the tight 2-1 victory.

While these honors certainly came as a bonus in her final year, a team-oriented Pasquale chalked up the achievement more to the ability of her teammates to create chances offensively.

“Honestly you can look at all of our goal scorers,” Pasquale said. “We had 11 different goal scorers which just shows that wherever you are on the field, given a moment, you can make an impact. (Being the top goal scorer) was really cool honestly, it was definitely an accomplishment that I do take pride in … But again, it just shows a reflection on my teammates as well because I couldn’t have done any of that alone.”

Although Pasquale’s story at Illinois has been told, her soccer career may still have a ways to go. Hoping to hear her name at the 2023 NWSL Draft, the Naperville native’s path to the professional level is still very much in progress.

For the time being, Pasquale has a plethora of memories to look back on from her collegiate career. Above all the goals, victories and highlights, however, there is one thing the midfielder hopes fans and future Illini players remember her time here.

“I just want them to see that I was someone who put her head down and really worked hard,” Pasquale said. “I always showed up and gave 100% effort. I hope that I was able to inspire people and instill that you can always give 100% effort. I think this University deserves that. You’re here and you were recruited for a reason, so I just hope that anyone who looks back can see that it was evident that I gave this program everything.”

 

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