After sojourn to Montana, Joyce happy to be home

After sojourn to Montana, Joyce happy to be home

   CHAMPAIGN  Illinois'' Colleen Joyce never was much of an outdoors type growing up in McHenry.

   She wasn''t much for hiking, and she got her kicks scoring goals instead of careening down mountains on a snowboard.

   That all changed the minute three years ago she stepped onto the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula, Mont.

   The standout midfielder was deciding between Illinois and Montana, and the majestic Rocky Mountains beat central Illinois'' cornfields.

   "I wasn''t sure about going way out there, but I visited and I fell in love with it," Joyce said. "The campus is so beautiful. With all the parks nearby, we went on hikes and I''d go snowboarding every weekend with my coaches and teammates."

   She took her lumps, mostly on the rear, while learning to snowboard. She lived in a postcard setting and loved the soccer program. Joyce was one of the top players on one of the Big Sky Conference''s top teams, and Montana earned a spot in the NCAA tournament in 1999.

   Then her life changed dramatically. Joyce contracted lupus, a disease that causes soreness in joints and, in Joyce''s case, chest and stomach pains.

   "I was talking to my parents one day, and I said, ''I don''t know if I can do this being this far away from home, from the doctors,'' " Joyce said. "I decided if I was going to come back home, I would be closer to my doctors and my family and friends."

   Joyce transferred to Illinois before this season. She rejoined many of her former club teammates who tried to lure her back to her home state all along.

   Junior Emily Brown, who played club ball with Joyce for three years, said she''d worked on getting Joyce to Champaign for three years.

   "She liked the scenery," teammate Lindsay Johnson said. "We''d all get on her. We''d be like, ''We miss you. Come back.'' It''s a blast to have her back."

   Joyce still misses the mountains and the scenery Johnson was joking about. She gets fatigued at times because of her illness, but shed has been relatively healthy and glad to be home.

   Her father, Norm, made several trips to watch her play at Montana, but mother Donna  no fan of flying  only saw her once in two years. Family get-togethers are a lot easier now.

   "It''s awesome to be close to home," Joyce said. "This season has been worth it, and I''m feeling better. It didn''t take very long to fit in. They made it easy on me."

   Joyce has made it easier for her teammates. Her 10 goals and 23 points rank second on a team that has tied its single-season victories record.

   "I think she wanted to fly the coop a little bit, and then she came home," UI coach Tricia Taliaferro said. "She''s been tremendous. She stepped in automatically and became a leader. She played with a lot of these players growing up and in club ball, so they had the respect for her."

   Joyce, who finished the regular season with two goals and an assist Sunday against Iowa State, is among the conference leaders in goals and points.

   "It was a boost with Kelly Buszkiewicz gone in the middle," Johnson said. "She picked up the slack. Her and Tara (Schulling) work well together. She''s a stud."

   Johnson, Brown and Taliaferro said her ability to control the ball helps her create scoring chances for herself and her teammates. They''re hoping to see more of that creativity during the Big Ten tournament this week.

   "My style fits in," Joyce said. "I''m more of a playmaker, I''d say. I''ve gotten some scoring opportunities."

JUMPING FOR JOYCE

   Illinois junior Colleen Joyce has made quite an impact since transferring from Montana. Here''s how she ranks among the Big Ten''s scoring leaders.

Name, School, Year, Games, Goals, Assists, Points

   Christie Welsh, Penn State,   Jr., 15, 15, 7, 37

   Allison Wagner, Wisconsin, Sr., 20, 12, 7, 31

   Kate Walse, Iowa, Sr., 19, 12, 6, 30

   Emily Brown, Illinois, Jr., 18, 12, 4, 28

   Sarah Lynch, Iowa, So., 19, 11, 5, 27

   Linzy Wolman, Iowa, Jr., 18, 9, 9, 27

   Lindsay Eckles, Ohio State, So., 19, 10, 4, 24

   Kacy Beitel, Michigan, Sr., 18, 7, 10, 24

   Colleen Joyce, Illinois, Jr., 18, 10, 3, 23

   Stephanie Smith, Penn State, Fr., 20, 6, 9, 21

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Soccer
Categories (3):Illini Sports, Soccer, Sports

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