Wheatley feels better after hard hit against Ohio State

In Friday’s game against Ohio State, freshman goalkeeper Claire Wheatley went down following a corner kick in the closing seconds of regulation. She initially punched out the cross, but the ball was kicked and then headed back into the box. A stampede of players met the ball and Wheatley was hit and shaken up.

“It was just a good, hard hit to the shoulder,” Wheatley said. “But the past couple days I’ve been fine. (I’m) just getting over it and I feel good now, 100 percent.”

Wheatley has been improving this season. Head coach Janet Rayfield has praised her play multiple times, as Wheatley has had to make many big saves in recent games. She leads the Big Ten with 42 saves.

Flaws continues goal-scoring success

Junior forward Jannelle Flaws scored her ninth goal of the season against Ohio State. She still ranks second in the Big Ten in goals behind Penn State’s Maya Hayes, who has 10 goals.

“She continues to do what she does well and that’s find the back of the net,” Rayfield said. “(Against Ohio State) she got a ball. They gave her a little bit of time and space, and that’s what great goal scorers do, they sense when they’ve got a little time and space.”

Flaws is also not afraid to take chances. Her 41 shots are the second most in the Big Ten. No matter from what part of the field she is shooting from, she is a threat.

Last Friday’s goal against Ohio State is a perfect example. Flaws was about 25 yards away from a goal just to the right of the half circle. She shot it toward the left corner and the ball went just past the keeper’s reach. Not many players have the power and accuracy to make goals from those ranges.

Flaws said she is feeling good compared with past seasons in which she sustained ACL tears. This season, she can finally get back to worrying about soccer and not her knee.

“I’m feeling better,” Flaws said. “Definitely getting more confidence as the season goes on and getting more fit and getting stronger … and playing with such great teammates, that just makes it easier.”

She is also spearheading a potent Illinois attack. Now that she is healthy, she has been making constant runs and always seems to be in a good position to receive the ball and make a run at goal. Such scoring potential from one player opens up the options for other players, which is part of the reason for the Illini showing so much offensive versatility early on.

Weekend festivities

The 2003 Illinois soccer team will be honored during the halftime of Friday’s game against Iowa, as the team celebrates the 10-year anniversary of Illinois’ first Big Ten Tournament championship.

The team will also host its eight-annual SoccerFest on Sunday against Nebraska, which includes a myriad of family friendly games and activities. The first 1,000 fans will receive free pizza. In the past seven seasons, Illinois is 5-1-1 in the games held on SoccerFest.

Alex can be reached at [email protected] and @AlexOrtiz2334.