Women's Soccer
Soccer Kick Starts Pre-season Training

Illini soccer players return to campus to begin pre-season for the 2012 campaign
Illini soccer players return to campus to begin pre-season for the 2012 campaign

Aug. 1, 2012

Practice Photos

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois soccer team descended upon Champaign for their first team meetings and practices of the season. It was a chance for the returning 2011 Big Ten Tournament champions to welcome their new Illini members to the fold. 

"Throughout the pre-season, the upperclassmen are an important part of the teaching process as we incorporate a new group of players into the program. Their understanding of our culture is as important as their understanding of our system," said head coach Janet Rayfield.

Rayfield jumpstarted the pre-season training this morning with a fitness exercise, followed by a technical session. After a lunch break at noon, Coach Rayfield instructed the freshmen on functional movement screens before the whole squad returned for a two-hour training session at 3:30 p.m.

The Orange and Blue will continue their two-a-days mixing in weight lifting, video sessions and fitness tests in the morning and training sessions and tactical practices in the afternoon.

"The goal of every pre-season is to take individuals who have prepared themselves and turn them into a prepared team. We will focus on the fundamentals both offensively and defensively and make sure that we have great habits on the field," continues Rayfield. "From there, we will work on building and understanding a tactical system that takes advantage of all the players strengths."

The dynamic Illini offense, who outshot its opponents 423-248, return five of their top seven point getters from last year's squad. Juniors Vanessa DiBernardo and Megan Pawloski, seniors Niki Read and Shayla Mutz and red-shirt sophomore Jannelle Flaws powered the team to a ranking of 26th in the NCAA in goals per game (2.21) and second in the Big Ten for total points on the year (142). Together the group scored 34 of the team's 53 goals and 90 of its 142 points. 

Defensively, Junior outside back Kassidy Brown and senior goalkeeper Steph Panozzo return as the seasoned veterans who spearheaded a 12 game undefeated streak last year. Panozzo recorded a career high 75 saves on the season and ranked seventh in the NCAA in minutes played with 2,224. Brown, who started in 21 games last season, helped the defense stifle opponents to an average of 4.13 shots on goal. 

"It's great to be back on campus with everyone and getting through our fitness tests in the morning. Everyone is getting along and the team is jelling quite well," Panozzo said.

Seven newcomers entered preseason camp this week, officially donning the Orange and Blue for the first time. The group consists of six true freshmen and a red-shirt freshman transfer from the University of Miami named Shannon Roche. Roche looks to compete for playing time at the defensive back position along with Amy Feher, while Reagan Robishaw can slot in both the defensive and midfield positions. Tailor Smith, Taylore Peterson and Anastasia Medellin look to bolster the midfield, while Nicole Breece adds her talents as an attacking midfielder. 

The Fighting Illini wrap up training camp on Aug. 9 before departing to Ohio to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in an exhibition bout on Aug. 10 at 2 p.m. CT. The Orange and Blue return home to battle the Kentucky Wildcats in their final exhibition game of the preseason on Aug. 12 at 1 p.m. CT. Illinois kicks off their season opener at home against Western Michigan on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. CT at the Illinois Soccer Stadium.