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    Illini Add Seven to Squad
    Illinois coach Janet Rayfield revealed a seven-member recruiting class on Feb. 1, the first day of the open signing period.

    Illinois coach Janet Rayfield revealed a seven-member recruiting class on Feb. 1, the first day of the open signing period.

    Feb. 1, 2006

    University of Illinois women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield announced Wednesday seven student-athletes will join the squad for the 2006 season. The group, comprised entirely of incoming freshmen, is highlighted by three former national champions at both the Olympic Development and club levels, and five who have reached a national championship.

    "All the necessary elements of a team are found in this class - playmaker, ball winner, competitor, goal scorer, speed, ability in the air, defensive pride, and even great names for the announcers," Rayfield said. "I am excited to see this class develop in our environment and look forward to the day that they help bring home a national championship."

    In addition to signing five top players from the state of Illinois, Rayfield and her staff were able to land Courtney Bell, a standout player from Bainbridge Island, Wash., and Chichi Nweke, a 5-7 forward from Virginia Beach, Va., who was ranked among Soccer Buzz's Top 75 recruits. Brittany Garrett (Top 150) and Jackie Santacaterina (Top 150) were also nationally-ranked by Soccer Buzz.

    "This is not just a collection of great soccer players," Rayfield said. "The class of 2006 is a group of exceptional young women on and off the field whose combined talents will help further the success of our program."

    The Illinois Soccer 2006 recruiting class:

    Courtney Bell
    Midfielder • 5-5 • Freshman
    Bainbridge Island, WA • Bainbridge HS • Club: Northwest Nationals

    High School/Club: Led Washington state Olympic Development Program (ODP) team to a Region IV championship and a national title in 2004 • Earned the Golden Boot award at the national championships • Was the captain of the Washington state ODP team from 2002-06 • Member of the Region IV ODP pool from 2002-05 • Led her state ODP team to regional championships four straight years from 2003-06 • Named Bainbridge MVP in 2003 as the team's leading scorer • Also led the Spartans in scoring in 2002 • Did not play high school soccer in 2004-05 because of conflicts with her club team, the Northwest Nationals.

    Coach Rayfield on Bell: "Courtney has great vision and skill, which will enable her to develop into a great playmaker. She is also an offensive threat because of her deception and speed running with the ball, and her ability to strike a ball with pace and accuracy. She will benefit from fifth-year senior Paula Faherty's experience in 2006 in learning her defensive responsibilities and I believe she will be a quick study. She has the potential to make an immediate impact on our goal scoring and offensive production."

    Brittany Garrett
    Defender • 5-5 • Freshman
    Lake Zurich, Ill. • Lake Zurich HS • Club: Eclipse Select

    High School/Club: Listed as a Top 150 recruit by Soccer Buzz • Along with Jackie Santacaterina, led Eclipse Select club team to consecutive U.S. Youth Soccer Association national championships in 2004-05 • Helped lead the Illinois state ODP team to the 2005 Region II championship • Participated in the U.S. Youth Soccer Interregional Event in Boca Raton, Fla., as a member of the Region II ODP team • Also led Eclipse Select to two straight Fall Midwest Regional championships in 2004-05 and a Disney Showcase title in 2005 • Named to the Chicago Sun-Times All-State first team in 2005, as well as All-Sectional and All-North Suburban Conference • Helped Lake Zurich to a second-place finish at the IHSA class AA tournament in 2003 and a third-place finish in 2004.

    Coach Rayfield on Garrett: "Brittany will follow in the mold of All-American Christen Karniski as on outside back. She has the ability to attack out of the back and the tenacity and sense of responsibility to defend. The fact that she has played as a central midfielder in high school is indicative of her ability to handle the ball. Yet she has shown on her national championship club team that she can play outside back at the next level."

    Chichi Nweke
    Forward • 5-7 • Freshman
    Virginia Beach, Va. • Princess Anne HS • Club: Beach FC Fyre

    High School/Club: Named a Top 75 recruit by Soccer Buzz • Part of the Region I ODP team from 2003-05 • Led ODP team to Orange Classic championships in 2004 and 2005 • Named the Regional, Tidewater and Beach Player of the Year in 2005 with Princess Anne • Scored 22 goals in 23 games for the Cavaliers while helping lead them to a state semifinalist finish • First team All-State selection in 2005 • Named first team All-Region, All-Tidewater and All-District 2004-05 • Helped Beach FC Fyre to Virginia State Cup titles in 2002 and 2003 and a runner-up finish in 2004 • Led Fyre to four league championships.

    Coach Rayfield on Nweke: "They always say you can't coach speed and that may be true. While Chichi Nweke has the gift of pace, she can also be coached. Her pace will be a threat, but her knowledge of the game and her ability on the ball - which will continue to improve in a college training environment - will help make the entire Illinois team a bigger threat. She is a great complement to the possession and playmaking skills of her classmates."

    Emily Pickard
    Defender/Midfielder • 6-0 • Freshman
    Hinsdale, Ill. • Hinsdale Central HS • Club: Windy City Pride

    High School/Club: Member of the Region II ODP pool in 2005 • Led the Illinois state ODP team to Nationals three straight years from 2003-05, including a fourth-place finish in 2004 • Member of Illinois state ODP team from 2003-05 • Named All-State as a forward for Hinsdale Central in 2005 • Also earned Daily Herald All-State, All-Area and All-West Suburban Silver honors in 2005 • Three-time All-Area and All-West Suburban Silver selection.

    Coach Rayfield on Pickard: "Emily has just started to tap the potential within her 6-foot frame. She has a natural instinct for defensive timing and a competitive mentality to challenge anyone. She also has the ability to keep the ball once she has created the turnover and will help us continue to be a composed attacking team. Emily will be a physical presence whether she is a center back or defensive center midfielder for us."

    Christina Sahly
    Forward/Midfielder • 5-6 • Freshman
    Naperville, Ill. • Naperville Central HS • Club: NSA

    High School/Club: Led Illinois State ODP team to a second-place finish at nationals in 2005 • Traveled to Europe as a member of the Region II ODP team in 2005 • Member of Illinois State Select ODP team in 2002, 2004 and 2005 • Was an ODP Region II pool player in 2004 • Led NSA club team to a U.S. Youth Soccer Association second-place finish in Region II and a state cup title in 2003 • Member of the All-DuPage Valley Conference, Daily Herald All-Area and Naperville Sun All-Area teams in 2004-05 • Named to the 2005 IHSSCA All-State team.

    Coach Rayfield on Sahly: "Christina is the forward you want to play with. She will fight to keep possession, work to hold the ball, see and find her teammates, and finish chances when she gets them. Christina has the ability to play a critical role in our attacking scheme because she adds a playmaking element to our forward line."

    Jackie Santacaterina
    Midfielder • 5-8 • Freshman
    Geneva, Ill. • Geneva HS • Clubs: Eclipse Select, NSA, Cardinals

    High School/Club: Listed as a Top 150 recruit by Soccer Buzz • Along with Brittany Garrett, led Eclipse Select club team to consecutive U.S. Youth Soccer Association national championships in 2004-05 • Helped lead Illinois state ODP team to a second-place national finish in 2005 • Member of the Ohio and Illinois ODP state teams from 2000-05 • Earned All-State honors in 2004 and 2005 • Led Geneva to a third-place finish in Illinois class AA in 2005 • Named Suburban Prairie North Conference MVP 2004-05 • Named 2005 Kane County Player of the Year • Scored 15 goals with 15 assists in 25 games from the midfield for Geneva in 2005 • Finished her career with 49 goals and 47 assists in 70 games, all at midfield for the Lady Vikings.

    Coach Rayfield on Santacaterina: "A tireless competitor, Jackie Santacaterina rarely, if ever, left the field as her club won title after title, including two U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. She is a ball winner, a competitor, and a warrior. She will bring a mentality to this program that even the upperclassmen will be challenged to match. I have seen her be the heart and soul of her team throughout the last few years and look forward to seeing that heart pump Orange and Blue for the next four years."

    Ashley Varns
    Forward • 5-9 • Freshman
    Chatham, Ill. • Glenwood HS • Club: Five Star Soccer

    High School/Club: Member of the Illinois state ODP team from 2003-05 and a "B" pool regional ODP candidate from 2004-05 • Helped lead Illinois ODP squad to a second-place finish in the national ODP tournament in Plano, Texas, in 2005 • Named an Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association first team All-State selection in 2004 and 2005 • Led Glenwood to a second-place finish in the IHSA class A state tournament in 2005 and a third-place finish in 2004 • A three-year first team All-Central State Eight conference selection from 2003-05 • Scored 17 goals with 17 assists for Glenwood in 2005 • Finished high school career with 41 goals and 40 assists in 74 games.

    Coach Rayfield on Varns: "Ashley's strength and power will make her a force to deal with in the attacking third. She has a powerful shot, the work rate to defend, the will to score, and the potential to develop an even greater knowledge of the game."

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