Top scorer leaves UI soccer team
CHAMPAIGN – Emily Brown's name is all over the record books for the Illinois women's soccer team. Unfortunately for the Illini, it's nowhere to be found on the roster.
During the team's recent trip to England, the program's all-time leading scorer announced she was leaving the team for "personal reasons." So Illinois begins its 2001 season Friday afternoon at Iowa State without its two-time All-Big Ten performer.
"She had personal things she wanted to take care of," Illini head coach Tricia Taliaferro said. "We felt it was more important she take care of that so it doesn't become a distraction for her or the team.
"It didn't surprise me. It was kind of building. It got to the point where she wasn't going to be effective on the field."
Brown, whose 46 career goals are 12 shy of the Big Ten record, was the team's MVP the past two seasons and led the Illini in scoring in each of her first three years.
But the senior addressed her teammates during the trip and told them her intentions.
"Emily just decided that there were things in her life that were more important than soccer," senior Rebecca (Patrick) Johnson said. "She needed to take care of it, and we all supported that. It was one of those things where, 'You know what, if this more important to you, go ahead and do it. We support you.' "
Taliaferro said Brown is still attending the UI and will have her final year of eligibility available, but she will not be back in 2001.
"She's sorting out some things, and we'll see how it goes in the future," Taliaferro said. "She'll still have one year of eligibility, and we'll see if she makes the right progress."
In the meantime, Taliaferro and her staff are searching for scorers to replace the Wilmette native. They're finding more and more options, and the Illini have been through this situation before.
When starting striker Lisa Baldwin surprised the team with her departure on the eve of last year's NCAA tournament, Laura Freeman stepped into her spot and scored both goals in a 2-0 win against Xavier.
Freeman notched a pair of scores in Saturday's scrimmage with J.B. Marine. Colleen Joyce – the team's second-leading scorer in 2000 – and Mary Nitsche also scored, and freshman Tara Hurless had a pair of assists.
"It's a great testimony to the fact we have such a deep bench," Johnson said.
Tiffani Walker also had a strong showing in England. Taliaferro expects a veteran team to overcome Brown's absence.
"It's been interesting in the last week," Taliaferro said. "It's open to anyone to step up. It's not like we don't have a go-to player. Just from the way we've been playing team soccer, it's the best we've played. If you look at Illinois' history, I think we're playing our best soccer right now."