The Illini kicked off their 2013 preseason with the first practice of the year on Wednesday.
Aug. 7, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The University of Illinois soccer program began its 2013 preseason schedule with its first official team practices at the Irwin Indoor Facility and Illinois Soccer Stadium on Wednesday. A day after reporting to campus and going through initial team meetings, the Illini opened training camp with one of two scheduled fitness tests before moving into technical and position-specific drills.
"It has been a positive first session," 12th-year head coach Janet Rayfield said. "What has been exciting to me is that our freshmen class has come in ready to play with an upperclassmen group ready to lead. We always have some really good performances during the fitness test on the first day back after summer, and I think we even set a freshman record during the beep test."
The Illini began their preseason routines with morning and afternoon practice sessions, allowing the Illini student-athletes to complete the necessary fitness work while also cycling through several drills Rayfield will make use of throughout the season. The Orange and Blue will continue their two-a-days, which include weight lifting, video sessions and fitness tests in the morning and training sessions and tactical practices in the afternoon, for the next week before heading to Maple City, Mich., for a training camp trip that includes an exhibition against Virginia on Aug. 16.
Illinois, which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012, returns seven starters, including three of its top-five scoring threats from a year ago in senior Vanessa DiBernardo, sophomore Nicole Breece and junior Allie Osoba. In 16 games last season, DiBernardo led the squad with eight goals and five assists on her way to earning NSCAA Third-Team All-America and First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Breece was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team following a rookie campaign in which she netted four goals and collected three assists, which accounted for the second-most points (11) on the team. Osoba scored two of her three goals during postseason action, while her other goal during the regular season was the game winner at Indiana.
The Illini also welcome back senior defenders Kassidy Brown and Christina Farrell along with sophomores Amy Feher and Taylore Peterson from last year's starting lineup. Along with filling starting spots left behind by Niki Read, Shayla Mutz and Nicole Denenberg, UI will see a new goalkeeper in front of the net for the first time in two years following the graduation of Steph Panozzo. Three Illini goalkeepers, senior Lauren Parkin, junior Lizzi Sanscrainte and freshman Claire Wheatley, will compete for that spot. Seven incoming freshmen also joined the Illini squad in 2013 and practiced for the first time on Wednesday.
Following the conclusion of training camp and the exhibition contest against Virginia on Aug. 16, the Illini will begin the 2013 slate on the road at Notre Dame on Aug. 23 and at Louisville on Aug. 25. The Orange and Blue will host its home opener at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium against College of Charleston on Aug. 30. Keep updated on the Illini all season via fightingillini.com and by following @IlliniSoccer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for a behind-the-scenes look at the team throughout the year.