2013 Senior Reflections
Oct. 28, 2013
In 20 years when you see a kid walking down the street in an Illinois shirt, what is the first thing you'll remember about your time playing soccer at Illinois?
KB: Myself wearing a shirt just like that kid at such a young age, to only dream of actually playing at such an amazing school.
VD: The first thing I will remember will probably be the experience of winning the Big Ten Tournament sophomore year. That team was a very special team that I had a lot of great memories from. We had a lot of hard practices where we grew as a team and because of those experiences, we were prepared in pressure situations.
KG: The first thing I will remember about my time playing soccer at Illinois will be the friendships that I have made that will last a lifetime. I won't remember every game score or practice but I will reflect on the people and memories that were made throughout my time here. The bonds formed through soccer might have been necessary for the team to succeed, but just how important those relationships remain when we are all off the field stands alone as the most valuable thing my time here has given me.
AO: I'll remember my teammates, winning the Big Ten Championship, the ups and downs of the seasons, the many dinners and desserts we cooked together, the road trips, the classes we took together, the hard practices we survived, and the little things like spending every minute together.
LP: I'll remember what it means to wear the "I" on my chest. I have always been so proud to represent the University of Illinois, especially when I am in uniform on game day. I will always feel that sense of pride when I see someone wearing Illinois gear, or when I wear Illinois gear.
MP: I'll remember my teammates who became my family over the last four years and all the unforgettable memories we shared. I'll mostly remember all the time spent on road trips doing absolutely nothing and hanging out in airports and hotel rooms.
KB: To enjoy every aspect of playing, not just the games. Fitness over the summers, working hard at every practice in the fall, and to grow individually in the spring. And then love it all over the next year.
VD: To never take anything for granted. College goes by fast and while you may not enjoy running fitness or those hard Tuesday practices, it is a huge part of your team's success. Push each other on and off the field because that is how you get better. Never be complacent and always work hard. Always be willing to do anything you can to better the team.
CF: Know what you do better than anyone else and work to get better at that every single day. This is the best way to find your way on to the field.
KG: I would tell the freshmen to take it all one day at a time and enjoy the journey as an Illini soccer player because the time truly does fly by. Your career will be full of highs and lows but your teammates will be there alongside you every time. With that in mind, don't take anything for granted. Learn from the upperclassmen. Grow from the losses. Welcome every fitness day and embrace every opportunity you get to play alongside your best friends on the field. It is an opportunity any Illini would give anything to be able to experience all over again!
AO: First, I would say to try your hardest during every practice, and always be ready because you never know when your time is going to come! Work your hardest over the summer to come in as fit as possible because it makes life a whole lot easier. Respect all of the older players on your team; they've been here longer. Make sure you are grateful for this experience - not many people get the chance to play on a Big Ten soccer team, let alone play for such a great program like Illinois - the sooner you realize this, the better. Lastly, enjoy every second you have of your soccer career, as well as every second you have with your teammates, because it goes by way too fast.
LP: I would like to tell them to not worry so much and instead embrace what life throws your way. Sometimes it is easy to be negative when things aren't going the way you want them to. If you take a minute to step back from whatever sticky situation you're in, you'll realize that you can get through it a lot easier than you initially thought. Also, be thankful for those individuals in your life that have helped you get this far! Don't ever take them for granted because you wouldn't be here without them.
MP: To play every single game like it's the last time you'll put on the Illinois soccer jersey and to take a lot of pictures!
How have you changed during your career at Illinois?
KB: Realizing the important things. Winning is sure fun but it's the big picture in the end that's amazing.
VD: During my career at Illinois, I have grown up a lot as a person and as a player. I am more mentally tough as a player. I used to always feel uncomfortable in new situations, and I believe college has helped me become confident in them. I realize that there are people to turn to for support when you need them but to not be so dependent on others to get you to where you want to go.
CF: I think that my time here has helped me to realize the opportunity that wasn't available anywhere else. My experience at Illinois changed me in that I know how to make the most of an opportunity.
KG: During my career at Illinois, I have matured a lot more in my understanding of the sacrifices it takes to be a part of the Illinois soccer program. I am more aware of the responsibilities I hold as a part of this team and the disciplined decisions that must be made in order for us to achieve. It took some time, but I now also recognize the importance of doing things I did not want to do (i.e.: extra fitness) and believing it would make me better.
AO: I've definitely grown and matured throughout my career at Illinois. I've become more confident in myself as a player and as a person as well. I've also learned that people are capable of almost anything if they work hard enough and put their heart in it.
LP: Being a student-athlete at Illinois has allowed me to change for the better and grow into a person I am proud to be. I have matured exponentially and learned to appreciate all of the opportunities that have been presented to me. I think that I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been in my life, and I'm so happy because of it.
MP: I think I have learned that the little things matter and by taking care of small details, the big things are a lot easier to accomplish. I have also become more responsible and have had to rely on myself taking care of things versus my mom or someone else doing them for me.
KB: Too many things to count. Freedom of growth. Looking forward to games on the weekends. Having 20+ friends always by your side. The travel that came along with soccer. Having a family away from my own family.
VD: There is a lot that I will miss about Illinois. I will miss always having a teammate to turn to. Getting up and going to practice every day and knowing that you're surrounded by 25 other players working hard for the same goal in mind. That's a hard feeling to replicate and you don't get it everywhere you go. I've been a part of a team for practically my entire life so that is something I will greatly miss. I will also miss living so close to some great friends. When you have nothing to do, you just go to an apartment and hang out with everyone. That is where you have some of the greatest memories.
CF: The best time of the year in Illinois is the fall. My favorite memory is riding in the back of Jenna Carosio's Jeep on game days and getting to play soccer on a crisp Friday afternoon. I will really miss the atmosphere as well as great teammates.
KG: There are two things I will miss most about Illinois. The first thing is the walk from the locker room to the game field. Whether it was for practices or games, I will always cherish the moments in which I could walk with my teammates, see how their days were going, and get ready to compete on the field. I also will greatly miss having my best friends live within walking distance of me and seeing them every day. It is not often in life you have so many people willing to tag along with you on adventures or just be there to hang out or talk when you need it. It is something I have come to miss with teammates who I have played with before and surely something I will miss in the future as time forces me to leave something I love so much.
AO: I'm going to miss sitting on the quad on a nice day, tailgating before football games, eating dinner on Green Street...I'll probably even miss going to class, but I will definitely miss playing soccer and my teammates the most. I'll miss how even though we spend countless hours at practice, games, and traveling together, we still choose to spend all of our free time together. I'll miss the Friday night games under the lights, the countless road trips, our pregame rituals, and all the weird things you learn about your teammates while spending two weeks straight together during preseason. I'll miss Saturday morning scrimmages, going to treatment with Britt, and pregame meals. I may even miss running 120's and I'll possibly SAQ...but I'll miss being able to put on the Illinois jersey and playing with my teammates the most.
LP: I'll certainly miss the people I've met and the wonderful relationships I have built with them. I have made friends that will last a lifetime and bonded with representatives of the university that have helped me more than they will ever know. I will miss the feeling of always having a shoulder to lean on (outside of my family, of course).
MP: I will definitely miss bragging about how awesome the St. Louis Cardinals are to all the Chicago Cubs fans.
What is one thing that stands out as having changed in you as a result of your time at Illinois?
KB: Realizing the importance of every little impact you may have on someone. Especially not through soccer skills, more through every day interactions. Simple baked goods or good luck texts mean more than you'd think.
VD: I would say I am more appreciative as a person. When you are younger, I feel like you take more for granted. Being in this environment, you learn to appreciate the little things in life. You learn to respect and appreciate the older players that came before you in this program and all of their hard work.
KG: I think that the one thing that stands out as having changed in me as a result of my time at Illinois is the realization of the impact that one person can have on another. Whether it was going out and doing community service, signing an autograph for a fan, or helping out a teammate, I came to appreciate the little ways in which one person can make a positive difference on another.
AO: I'm definitely more confident in myself as a result of my time at Illinois. I know that I can do things outside of my comfort zone, and if I continue to try my best, good things will come.
LP: As mentioned before, I think one thing that has changed in me is my sense of appreciation for others. I feel like I might have taken certain helpful individuals for granted before my time at Illinois. Being here has helped me to realize how blessed I am to be given the support and opportunities that have been handed to me over the years.
MP: I have learned to give one hundred percent at every thing you do because you are not always going to get a second chance.
What would you have never done or never seen if you had not played soccer at Illinois?
KB: Needless to say, all the traveling. Traveling in a big group, all dressed alike for many stares in the airport. Most importantly, seeing what an impact a team could do.
VD: Illinois has given me so many experiences I would have never had. One that stands out is climbing one of the largest dunes I have seen in my life. This past preseason we took a trip to Michigan and had to climb the dune as a team. We learned a lot about ourselves as we were climbing. If I did that with anyone else, it wouldn't have been as meaningful or as rewarding.
CF: I've been so fortunate to travel to a lot of places as a part of this program. Without this experience, I don't think I would have ever gone through military bootcamp (preseason 2011) or visited the dunes of Michigan (preseason 2013). The best part of it all was not having to travel alone.
KG: If I had not played soccer at Illinois, I would likely not have played soccer anywhere else. I would not have had the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and visit so many college campuses. I also would never have had the rush of competing in a Big Ten game or feeling all of the pride that comes with being an Illini athlete.
AO: I think about this a lot considering when I started college, the last thing I thought I would be doing is playing on the U of I soccer team. If I had not walked on the team three years ago, my life would be completely different. I would have never been a Big Ten Champ or visited all of the Big Ten schools. I would have never seen Megan Green travel in her forever lazy or heard LP sing in her grandma voice. I would have never been a part of the best active warm-up group (RAPTORS) or witness Gierman's amazing dance moves. Most importantly, if I never would have played soccer at Illinois, I would have never experienced how truly amazing it is when a group of teammates can come together for a collective cause or been able to be a part of such a great program
LP: I would have never traveled all over the country and made millions of memories with my amazing teammates. I think I would not have been the best person I could be without particular individuals' guidance and support. I also would not be as disciplined and ready to take on the next chapter of my life after college had I not played soccer at Illinois.
MP: I don't think that I would have ever seen the Pacific Ocean or the Arizona desert or any of the tons of campuses we got to see by traveling throughout the country. I also would have never ever ever ever climbed a 500-foot sand dune in Michigan.
If you were to will one thing to a teammate you're leaving behind what would it be and who would you leave it to?
KB: Dread wax to Tailor Smith.
VD: I would will my water bottle to Megan Green so she doesn't have to steal it and rub it together with hers on game day for "good luck".
CF: I'd will competitive spirit to the freshmen class. Being a part of this program means that you never stop competing for your teammates.
KG: I would will the leadership role of the cheer we do as a team before we take the field to Jenna Miller. I would leave this responsibility to Jenna because she has high energy, passion, and always exhibits the competitive spirit we hope to bring to each game day.
AO: I would give my squish pillow to Noelle because I know how much she loves him and that she would care for him like he was her own.
LP: I would leave behind my spirit in my locker to Miss Amy Feher because I know she'll miss her locker buddy. Although this probably sounds creepy, Amy would love it. If she was having a bad day, I would definitely be there to cheer her up. She would certainly do the same thing for me. LOVE YOU AIIIIMDAWGGGGG.
What was your favorite soccer road trip and why?
KB: Driving home from Northwestern after winning the Big Ten Championship late Sunday night. Singing the most pointless songs that have notes that probably shouldn't be attempted by twenty-some girls.
VD: There are so many road trips that stand out, but I would probably say the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern. We were so close to home that a lot of fans were able to come and support us. Looking in the stands you would have thought we were playing on our home field. It also was one of our longer trips so we spent a lot of time bonding together and sharing memories.
CF: Easy. Spending the week with the team in Evanston to win the 2011 Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern.
KG: My favorite soccer road trip has to be the week in 2011 that we spent in Evanston, Illinois, at the Big Ten Tournament. Since we played three games from Wednesday-Sunday and did not attend classes, we had countless meals and free time to hang out as a team and celebrate the success we were having as a group. We were so happy and excited about what we were achieving that every little thing was so fun. The location also was awesome because a lot of my family and friends were able to attend the games. Winning the Big Ten Tournament was obviously a perfect ending to the week as our efforts as a team were realized. It was pure bliss to share such an experience with some of my family members and best friends in the program.
AO: Definitely the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern and our trip to Purdue and Indiana this year when the seniors recorded our very own music video.
LP: I would have to say my favorite soccer road trip was to the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern in 2011. Clearly this road trip was awesome because we won the entire tournament that year, but our team also spent the whole week bonding with each other off the field as well. There are too many good times to name, but I especially remember Raphael the parrot, our good luck charm during the entire tournament. That week will always be one I will never forget.
MP: The 2011 Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern was my favorite road trip because I got to spend a ton of time with my teammates and we had overwhelming support from our friends and family that it made us feel as though we had home-field advantage throughout the whole tournament and, of course, we won the Big Ten Tournament that year!
Describe your most embarrassing moment as an Illini.
KB: Having to be Hannibal Lector/Masktidy/Rip Hamilton with my mask after I broke my nose junior year.
VD: I questioned who Pennsylvania State was, when they were ahead of us in the regional rankings not realizing that it was Penn State...Don't want to talk about it.
CF: One practice we were using the metal post defenders during a drill. I made a side comment to the freshmen about not being a dummy and running into one of the posts, and then proceeded to smash into one and take myself out whilst running backwards. This afforded me a bruise the size of my entire upper arm.
KG: My most embarrassing moment as an Illini has to be when we traveled to play non-conference games at LSU my junior year. I forgot to change into my jersey after warm-ups and it took me until the coaches called me to warm-up to realize it I had not brought it to the field. I had to hop a fence and sprint to the bus as fast as I could to get my jersey.
LP: I may or may not have passed gas in our strength coach's face while he was assisting me with chin-ups...My bad, Steve.
MP: Freshman year, Jannelle and I were walking to the bus stop outside of Huff Hall and I decided that I could slide across the ice and look like an ice skater, but instead I wiped out on my butt in front of a whole lot of people.
What is your favorite memory of the coaches at Illinois?
KB: There are too many to count. First that comes to mind was the Ke$ha dance they did to surprise us!
VD: Last year our coaches videotaped themselves doing a dance to Ke$ha and played it to us before one of our games. That was a very enjoyable memory. Another memory is from a Saturday morning scrimmage. Janet was playing in it and went down hard like she was injured. Everyone just froze and didn't know what to do. Our student trainer went out to help her and she just popped up. She faked us all out.
CF: My favorite memory of the coaches is the pregame video they made for our match against UNC in the 2012 NCAA tournament. They were doing a coordinated dance to a Ke$ha song.
KG: My favorite memory of Janet came my freshman year preseason as we were running a set of cones as fitness. Marissa Holden yelled "I think I am going to die" to which Janet replied "Holdy, you'll pass out before you die." That definitely set the tone early for the hard work and mentality it would require to be a part of this program. My favorite memory of Jeff has to be all of the random facts/jokes he attaches to the end of messages he sends to the team. They always made me laugh. My favorite memory of Leish was our season of attempting to nutmeg each other. She likes to think that she won, but I am not certain her counting skills are too spectacular.
AO: When Jeff jumped out of the elevator in an attempt to scare us but ended up screaming in an old lady's face...and when the coaches made up a dance to Ke$ha for our warm up video.
LP: Oh wow, this is a hard one. I'll never forget when Janet made a deal with us that she would do a little jig if we won the Big Ten Tourney in 2011. That might have been the sole reason we one the tournament...it was priceless. The coaches also made a SPECTACULAR video of them doing a choreographed dance to Ke$sha's "Die Young" last fall before we played UNC in the NCAA tournament. There wasn't a dry eye in the house...everyone was laughing hysterically.
MP: My favorite memory of the coaches is when they made a choreographed dance video to Ke$ha before we played North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2012. I really don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life.
What is the best prank you've pulled on a teammate or the coaches at Illinois?
KB: Not so much about one specific prank but more or less knowing which buttons to push and how far to do so. Scaring Kristen Gierman is always a great one.
CF: In the summer leading up to preseason, before I had met any of the freshmen, I responded to a post in the team Facebook group that said, "Don't feel free to ask me questions. You're in college now figure it out." This wasn't intended as a prank, but apparently it left some freshmen pretty anxious about their first day at Illinois.
KG: I cannot think of any specific pranks that I've pulled on my teammates or coaches throughout the years, but I am sure they will all attest to my many attempts at humor.
LP: I'm not really much of a prankster, surprisingly. I think this is because I know karma would come back and bite me in the butt. However, when us seniors were freshmen we took a bunch of plastic eating utensils and snuck over to the senior's place and stuck them all over their yard. It was hilarious to us at the time, and most of them had no idea who did it, but looking back on it I feel lame that was the best prank we could think of. The freshies this year better sleep with one eye open because this question has motivated me to tap into my evil side. Muahahhahahahahhaaaaa!
MP: When we were freshmen, we thought it would be funny to pull a prank on the upperclassmen on the team. So, we dressed in all black, "borrowed" a bunch of plastic forks from Late Night, and forked the senior house and the front lawn of the juniors' apartment. They were trying to figure out what sports team had done it until we couldn't hide it anymore.
Finally, who do you want to thank?
KB: My family and friends, but first and foremost my mom. Coming to all but I believe 2 or 3 games. Driving to every game possible no matter the miles. Plus! Pushing me to picking Illinois in the first place, knowing it was a perfect fit for me. Shout out to the best soccer mom ever!!!
VD: I would like to thank my family for their constant support. They pushed me to always work hard and to do my best. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. I would also like to thank the coaching staff. They are constantly there for you and willing to do anything to make you a better player but also a better person. I'd also like to thank Brittany for taking care of me and dealing with my annoying self. Lastly, I would like to thank all of my teammates the past four years. This experience wouldn't have been the same without them.
CF: I would like to thank my high school soccer coaches, Harold Warren, Chris Fernandez and Sean Watkins; my family; and Coach Janet Rayfield for believing in me and giving me a second chance.
KG: First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents who have sacrificed so much on my behalf for my entire soccer career. Thank you for coming to my games and always encouraging me to do my best. I also would like to thank the coaching staff for the opportunity to wear the orange and blue. Thank you for challenging me to always be the best player I can be and holding me accountable to the values that make this program so great. Thank you Brittany, Chelsea, and Steve for helping me take care of my body so I could compete to the best of my ability. Thank you Mike Cation for your witty humor and constant encouragement. Thank you Shari for helping me balance the life of a student-athlete. Finally, thank you to my teammates past and present for reminding me why I love this game so much. Thanks for inspiring me with your passion and commitment to this team and to each other. Thank you for pushing me when I struggled and always being there when I needed it. None of this journey would have been possible without you guys.
AO: I need to give a special shout-out to my Grandpa, who is my biggest fan. He somehow makes me laugh after every tough loss, I can always find him in the stands cheering with both his arms in the air, and he never fails to give me the best soccer advice after games. I'd also like to thank my parents and my three sisters who not only come to all my games, but are also the ones who encouraged me to walk-on the team three years ago. They have supported me throughout this entire journey and have believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. I would not be playing on this field today if it weren't for the love and support they give me every single day. Lastly, I'd like to thank my teammates and the coaches who have made this one of the greatest experiences of my life, and given me countless memories that I will never forget.
LP: First and foremost, as most people do, I'd like to thank God for blessing me with endless amounts of love and opportunities in my life. Secondly, I would love to thank my parents. They have sacrificed so much for me over the years in order for me to achieve success at Illinois. Who knows where I'd be without them by my side for the past 21 years. I love you and appreciate you both more than you could ever know. Next, I'd like to thank the greatest siblings on the planet for annoying me to no end and loving me when I needed it most. Sis, knowing you'll always be there for me at any hour of the day is the greatest comfort. Bro, thanks for being you. You is amazing. Also, I'd love to thank my fella, Timothy Messer, for putting my happiness before anything in this world. Finally, I'd like to thank Owie for his sweet puppy kisses and wagging tail at all hours of the day. I am blessed beyond measure.
MP: I want to thank my mom for driving me to every practice and tournament growing up and for always being my number one fan and the rest of my family for constantly supporting me in everything I did on and off the field. I'd also like to thank two of my club coaches, Mitch Bohnak and Tony Segobiano, for believing in me and helping me become the player I am today.