Panagiotopoulou makes long anticipated debut with Illini


CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — You may have seen her name on the roster, or at State Farm Center, but until Thursday, you had never heard it.

“Ok, so my first name is Athanasia. And Panagiotopoulou-Andritsopoulou.”

“All I could think about was, ‘It’s about time,'” she said when hearing her name called at State Farm Center.

And not only did she play, she scored the first points of her career. The 6-foot-3 forward joined the Illini in 2017, but missed two and a half seasons with injuries. A torn ACL and meniscus, then she re-tore that meniscus. That was followed by a stress fracture only days before the season started. But through it all she never gave up on her dream.

“I am really resilient and persistent,” Panagiotopoulou said. “I always had this in myself, you always have your ups and downs and there have been moments that I was feeling really unmotivated but I always tried to get myself to get motivated again because I know what I want to do.”

Panagiotopoulou gives the Illini some more size in the post, where they are lacking against Big Ten teams. Head coach Nancy Fahey doesn’t want to throw too much at the Athens, Greece native, but she knows she’s ready for her role.

“Day-by-day letting her get her confidence back,” Fahey said. “It’s something to say, you know, you’ve been gone that long and you have to be a little patient to let her get the opportunity to get game experience but we’re there.”

There’s still some learning though when it comes to her last name.

“Nancy? Yes,” Fahey laughed, leaving out her last name. “You didn’t ask that. You said Nancy. I’ve tried a couple times, it’s a little embarrassing but we’ll keep at it.”

Fahey’s just hoping she hears it a lot after Panagiotopoulou scores at the State Farm Center.

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