It’s rare for a freshman to make an impact so early in the season.
But Illinois’ Abby Elinsky accomplished just that August 24th when the Fighting Illini defeated Louisville 2-0 at home. Elinsky put in the difference-maker in the first half against one of the better squads in the nation.
Elinsky’s goal came in the 40th minute when a corner kick was batted around in the box before she eventually connected and found the right side of the net. The rookie defender’s goal was her second of the season, her first came when she tallied the only goal in the Illini’s opener against Notre Dame, a 3-1 loss.
“With those set pieces the ball is right there so you just have to finish it,” Elinsky said of the goal. “Those are the easy ones.”
Elinsky’s success on offense as a defender may look peculiar on the surface but it is no shock to coach Janet Rayfield who is actively trying to find ways to create opportunities for Elinsky.
“We certainly are looking for opportunities for her to get forward and (for) her to get involved in the attack,” Rayfield said after the victory over the Cardinals.
Elinsky was an All-American and the Gatorade Ohio Girls Soccer Player of the Year in her senior season at Rocky River High School where she had a school record 43 goals paired with 19 assists. Elinsky’s success came, not shockingly, as a forward, so the switch to defense is something new for her as she is protecting the net instead of attacking it, but she is making the best of her situation and trying to find creative ways to get scoring looks.
“I never played it before college, so it’s a little different compared to playing up top,” Elinsky said. “It’s a different role that I have to take on.”
Defensively, Elinsky and her back line were able to shut out Louisville, with two goalies—Michelle Denley and Claire Wheatley combining to blank the Cardinals, each taking care of one half.
“The key was sticking together in the back line and covering for each other when someone had to go up,” the freshman said of the defense’s success.
Since the victory Illinois has rattled off four straight victories allowing only two total goals in the five victories.