CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield is back in town after spending more than a week in France, supporting Team USA in the World Cup. The longtime Illini coach has been to the sport’s biggest spectacle before, but never as just as fan.
“It’s the difference between vacation and work,” Rayfield said after working previously as a consultant for the USWNT. “When you’re there analyzing the game and taking notes, you just don’t get to enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the experience and this time it was just, ‘Take it all in and be part of the 25,000 Americans that were over there and cheering for players that I knew.’ So I just really got to enjoy the whole experience.”
Rayfield has plenty of Illini connections on the national team, none bigger than her Jill Ellis, the USWNT head coach and Rayfield’s Illinois predecessor.
“I think it’s just a great connection and something that people can relate to,” Rayfield said. “Having worked with several of those athletes, the connections in the soccer world are phenomenal and to have Jill here and to go on and this was her start in a high level of soccer. And just to see the levels that she’s ascended to and what she’s been able to do, it’s a great credit to her but also a credit to this university that this is where she started.”
Rayfield announced her team’s schedule for this fall on Tuesday. The Illini will play nine home matches, starting Aug. 22 against Loyola at 7 p.m.
Illinois is coming off a bounce back 11-8-1 season after finishing with just five wins the previous year, the lowest total in school history.