Feher forges a role as Illinois soccer’s silent threat

Her role doesn’t receive much fanfare, but sophomore defender Amy Feher performs her job regardless. The pacey outside back is in her second season for the Illini and has proved to be a dependable player on head coach Janet Rayfield’s team.

Rayfield said Feher’s versatility is a major strength she brings to the team. After spending time struggling in an offensive role, she has found a better fit on defense, helping the offense by getting chances started.

“I can’t really put the ball in the back of the net. I just help other people do it,” Feher said.

In her first year in college, Feher played in the attack and midfield for Illinois. She played in 17 of the team’s 18 games last season, and this year she’s started all 14 games for Illinois at left back. Her collegiate career has been a journey through several positions, and she has welcomed each one with open arms. Each role has taught her how to read the game from a different perspective and they all work to strengthen her current role.

“Given the system that we have, it’s very important that our outside backs get involved in the attack,” Rayfield said. “We ask outside backs to be able to play on both sides of the ball, and she has the ability to impact the game offensively but yet is a staple of our defensive presence. You put those two things together and that’s a player who’s making a difference in our season.”

To be a force on offense and defense Feher has to make several runs forward and chase down opposing players at the back. In her role she has to be dependable on both ends of the floor on every possession without taking plays off. Her task requires some dedication to fitness, and that’s what she did. Feher remained on campus during the summer to work with the team’s fitness trainer on her speed and endurance, and she is seeing the payoff this season.

“I don’t notice when I run that much, I just run and try to help the team when I can,” Feher said. “Some of the runs poop me out, and I get tired but that’s soccer and I love the sport.”

The impact is not just visible to her; other members of the Illinois lineup have noticed her growth. Feher has been the most constant piece of an evolving Illinois defense this season. For most of the games this year she started at outside back, playing next to the heart of the defense, Christina Farrell. The development of Fehe has solidified her and Farrell’s partnership in the left half of the defensive line.

“I think Amy and I work well together because I trust her,” Farrell said. “I know she’s going to work hard, take care of her job and support me.”

As her resume continues to grow, Feher is entrusted with more responsibilities for the Illini. Her play on the field is doing all the talking, but off the field she is accepting another mantle. She is beloved by teammates for her endearing personality and her ability to lighten the mood.

“Amy is a great athlete, a hard worker and a smart player,” Farrell said. “A lot of it is just making sure she’s building the confidence she deserves. She’s doing everything right, so confidence and leadership are the next step.”

Lanre can be reached at [email protected] and @WriterLanre.