While being recruited by NAIA Grand View University to play soccer, Caitlin Dayton and Ali Fanning made sure to ask about playing opportunities as freshman at the Des Moines, Iowa, school.
Little did the club soccer teammates with Crystal Lake Force expect to be starters on a 3-0 team only a week into their first college season.
“I never expected to start or even play this much,” said Fanning , a Prairie Ridge graduate who starts on defense. “I think we have a lot ahead of us.”
Thursday’s 3-1 victory against Waldorf College was the third in a row for Dayton, including a 3-2 win Sunday against No. 23 Hastings College.
Dayton, a Crystal Lake Central graduate who starts in goal, learned of her season-opening assignment against Midland University last weekend when she walked into the locker room two hours before the match and saw her name written on a white board listing the starting lineup.
“I didn’t know if I’d play the whole game, 15 minutes or a half,” she said.
With Fanning in front of her on defense, Dayton played all 90 minutes, making two saves in a 2-0 shutout victory.
“It was comforting to know that I wouldn’t be out there all by myself,” Dayton said. “(Ali) gives it her all 100 percent of the time. She works her butt off.”
The effort of Dayton, Fanning and the rest of the 13-member freshman class hasn’t been lost on the team’s upperclassmen, which have averaged just over 10 victories a season in the past five years.
“They said they haven’t seen a freshman class like us,” Dayton said. “It’s exciting that they see potential in us.”
Fanning learned of her starting assignment after being summoned to coach Ventsi Stoimirov’s office and waiting several “nervewracking” minutes for a meeting with the coach.
She was certain that being a freshman starter could upset some older teammates.
“I would’ve thought that I’d step on a few toes,” she said. “But the girls have been so supportive.”
The support of her teammates and coaches has provided plenty of positive reinforcement for Fanning.
“I was the type of person who always thought I’d be pulled out of a game if I made a mistake,” she said. “Coach said, ‘If you make a mistake, it’s OK.’ I’m feeling a lot more confident.”
For Dayton, seeing teammates on campus has helped ease her transition to a new environment.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I call it my soccer family. It’s nice to see teammates around campus and be able to say hi. That makes it a lot easier to adjust (to college).”
NSIC soccer standouts: Cary-Grove graduate Korey Kronforst and Huntley’s Aimee Wronski were named to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Offensive Players to Watch List for women’s soccer.
Kronforst, a junior forward, led Minnesota State University with 18 goals and 43 points last season while earning NSIC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Kronforst was the first player in the history of the Mankato, Minnesota, school’s program to be named to the Daktronics All-American First Team.
Wronski, a senior midfielder/forward at Upper Iowa University, was a first-team All-NSIC selection last season and was chosen as the league’s Newcomer of the Year while leading the Peacocks in goals (15), assists (six), points (36) and game-winning goals (eight).
MSU was chosen by league coaches to finish first in a preseason NSIC poll. The team received seven of a possible 16 first-place votes.
MSU opens its regular season Sept. 5 at Southwestern Oklahoma State.
Upper Iowa was voted to finish fifth in the 16-team conference. The Peacocks open their regular season Sept. 5 when they host the Peacock Soccer Classic tournament.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryOnCampus.