#31 Illinois Women's Soccer 2014 Preview

Illinois Fighting Illini

Overall Rank: #31
#4 Big Ten
#31 Illinois Women's Soccer 2014 Preview
Illinois Team Page


Illinois snuck into the NCAA Tournament following an 11-9-3 campaign. The schedule was tough and Coach Janet Rayfield did a good job keeping her team together. They were rewarded with that tournament berth and made the most of it. The Fighting Illini won a rare low scoring game at Washington State and advanced via penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie. Against Portland in the second round, Illinois played the type of game they are more used to, winning 4-3 in overtime. The run ended at the hands of a surprise Boston College squad.

2013 Record: 11-9-3, 5-5-1
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Janet Rayfield

Returning Leaders:
Goals: Jannelle Flaws, Senior, F, 23
Assists: Casey Conine, Sophomore, D, 5
Shots: Jannelle Flaws, Senior, F, 126
Saves: Claire Wheatley, Sophomore, GK, 101

Other Key Returnees: M/F Nicole Breece, M Taylore Peterson, D/M Aliina Weykamp, D/M Reagan Robishaw, D Amy Feher

Key Losses: M Vanessa DiBernardo, F Megan Pawloski, D Kassidy Brown, M Meegan Johnston, D Christina Farrell, F Allie Osoba

Finally healthy, Jannelle Flaws had a magnificent season. Her 23 goals tied her atop the national rankings with St. John’s Rachel Daly. Flaws is not opposed to taking shots and fired 126 towards goal on the year. About half of those shots were on target and it seems like Flaws is a threat to score every time she touches the ball. That will not change this year. Nicole Breece has taken a back seat to players like Flaws, but the junior is a capable goal scorer and can help set up opportunities for Flaws. The offense may not score 2.35 goals per game again, but they will be potent as long as Flaws is on the pitch.  

There are some big losses offensively though. Vanessa DiBernardo has been one of the best midfielders in the country and wrapped up her collegiate career with seven goals and seven assists as a senior. DiBernardo was drafted fourth overall by Chicago in the 2014 NWSL Draft. Replacing her leadership will be impossible, especially since Megan Pawloski and Allie Osoba are not around to fill the void. The Illini are going to give up goals. That is how they play, but the defense still needs to tighten up behind Amy Feher, Aljina Weykamp and Reagan Robishaw. Keeper Claire Wheatley is always busy and her freshman campaign was up and down. She allowed 50 goals and totaled 101 saves. That is not a good ratio, but it is hard to blame a freshman who often had any time to rest between saves.

Final Projection:
Illinois is not shying away from another tough slate in 2014. They begin the year with home games against Notre Dame and Louisville. The larger Big Ten slate includes road games against Nebraska and Penn State and trips way out East to take on Rutgers and Maryland. With that schedule, the Illini should need to just be a couple games over .500 to get back to the tournament and they will have to fight every step of the way.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Tournament

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 2.35 (18th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Goals-Against Average: 2.084 (292, 11)
Shutout Percentage: 0.130 (286, 12)
Save Percentage:  0.679 (304, 11)

Madness 2015 NWSL Draft Rankings:
#25 Jannelle Flaws


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