"Just imagine yourself on a beach:" Girls soccer preview
Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 9:32am
Head Coach: Philip Anders, sixth season
2011 Season Record: 6-10-2 overall, 2-2 East Central Illinois Conference
Key Losses: Emma Coverdill, Amanda Hwu, Eunjung Kim
Key Returnees: Seniors Elena Bauer, Jamie Blue, Abby Radnitzer; juniors Juliana Trach, Sarah Vaughen
Key Newcomers: Junior Sarah Keeley, Freshmen Carmen Gewirth, Ema Ondrejckova
First Game: 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 12, Uni @ St. Thomas More
AS THE ILLINEKS jump into the beginning of regular season play, many questions remain to be answered. One thing is sure, though: they will not run out of substitutes. Over 40 girls went out for soccer this year, which means there will be enough players on both varsity and JV to substitute the whole team at once.
"We have a lot of players so we definitely won't ever get tired," said senior Abby Radnitzer.
"We have a lot of girls on the team, that could be good or it could be bad," said senior Jamie Blue. "So we have a lot of depth."
One good thing about this year's team is that they have good overall team dynamics, something large teams often struggle with.
"I think despite the fact that there are a lot of people it's going really well," said senior Marie Lilly. "There are a lot more people than we maybe would have liked, but I'm surprised by how well everyone is doing together."
"I think our team gets along great and we have a great team dynamic going on in practices of support and love and camaraderie," agreed sophomore Mara Dolan.
Hopefully, these good team dynamics as well as the large team will translate to on-field success this season.
This year's varsity team has to replace eight seniors who were on the varsity team that went 6-10-2 last year. On offense, then-senior Christina Gratton scored six goals for the Illineks, and supplied seven assists. However, there are even bigger holes to fill on the defensive side.
"Emma [Coverdill] and Amanda [Hwu] were definitely a key part of our defense. And [goalie] Eunjung [Kim], even though she didn't play a lot, she did bring a lot to practice. And definitely in the senior night she played you could tell the difference."
Much of the Illineks success will hinge on how well they can replace the players who graduated.
"We lost a lot of seniors...[success this season] will depend if people can step up or not," said junior Sarah Vaughen.
"We have a lot of seniors coming back but a lot of seniors who haven't had to step up and play a lot of minutes and be relied on," agreed Blue. "So I think it will kind of be a test of, you know, 'are you ready to step up when we start playing our games.' ... I think we will be pretty competitive. I am excited for the season, honestly. I think we have a great group of seniors coming back that provide a lot of leadership, but as far as how all the skills are going to come together I'm not sure."
Although this year's team acknowledges how much they have lost, there seems to be optimism that they can fill in the gaps left by previous years.
"I think we have a lot of strong potential," said Dolan. "We lost a lot of seniors last year, but one thing we have going for us is that we have a lot of strong talent in each and every grade, so that I don't think we should be hurting too bad. And we also have a lot of new people that are always trying."
"We've lost about eight seniors every year since my freshman year," said Radnitzer. "There are definitely a lot of gaps to be filled, especially goalie-wise things are kind of up in the air but hopefully once we get that sorted out we can start to assign the rest of the lines."
The one thing that the Illineks seem to lack so far this year is a strong presence in goal. In years past, Eunjung Kim held down the position. This year a crop of new goaltenders seemed poised to take over. However, a rash of injuries has derailed this group and forced the Illineks to keep searching. Hopefully, the Illineks will be able to fill the position in time for their first games.
The Illineks have a very tough schedule throughout the year, especially early on. They play their first three games within five days.
"Competition is going to very stiff from the very outset," said Athletic Director Sally Walker. "We'll find out what we're all about within the first two games of the season, there's no doubt about that. Starting off with St. Thomas More and then we have Central. Judah should be easy, but then we have Centennial and St. Thomas More again and then I think we go straight to Urbana.
"Hopefully St. Thomas More won't be a challenge," said Radnitzer. "How we do against them will kind of set the tone for the rest of the season, because they are definitely a team that we should be able to sweep over, although that wasn't really the case last year."
This tough schedule, unfortunately for the Illineks, continues almost all season.
"We play a very difficult schedule for girls soccer because we have to play so many AA and AAA schools because not many single A schools have teams," said Walker. "So our schedule is tough."
One thing that will be different about girls soccer this season is the absence of longtime coach Ralph Felarca. While the players were quick to point out that they really like their current coaches as well, his absence will definitely be felt.
"One thing that is going quite sad about this season is the loss of the one and only Ralph Felarca," said Dolan. "He was, in some ways, the heart of the team. And for those of us who like to have a lot of fun and mess around in practice-sometimes too much-he was always there for us."
"We would split up varsity between Ralph and Phil," said Lilly. "And so the people who were with Ralph were in 'Ralph school' and we were superior to the other team because we were more special because we were in Ralph. "
"I just miss that when it was so cold outside, all he would say was, 'just imagine yourself on the beach and you're going to be ok," said Blue, remembering one of Felarca's most famous sayings. "
It was kind of fun because him and Phil were such good friends and you could really tell that they enjoyed each others company so much. They would stay after practice all the time...strategising together. And I feel bad that Phil doesn't have that kind of companion anymore. Because they did work really well together."
One of the people who will attempt to fill the role left by Felarca is senior Conrad Schloer. According to Walker, he is an official coach.
"He had to get accredited," she said. "He had to get fingerprinted and all that other stuff. He had to take the coaching course, so now he is an official student coach."
"It will be exciting what Conrad will bring to the team because he is a very talented soccer player and he will bring some new things that Phil hasn't introduced us to before and a new style of coaching that should be beneficial to the team," said Dolan.
Overall, there is a great deal of uncertainty, but also a great deal of optimism. The Illineks have yet to figure out what their season will be like, but they are looking forward to it.