Illinois State soccer has won four straight MVC championships and has advanced in the NCAA Tournament two years in a row. Much of the acknowledgement and credit goes to this years senior class, but the underclassmen have been a big part of the continued success as well. Sophomore, midfielder Dagny Olson and sophomore, defender Sara Stankoskey, lead the way for a group of developing underclassmen who will not go unnoticed. The Redbirds will faceoff Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Pepperdine at 7 p.m. in Los Angeles, Calif.
Tell us about your background and soccer experience.
Stankoskey: Im from Carol Stream. I played club for Chicago Fire Juniors from eighth grade until about my junior year. And then my senior year I played for Sockers FC.
Olson: Im from Champaign. I played for Little Illini from little tots until I was a junior in high school. I played for Eclipse Chicago my Senior Year.
You both arrived into a pretty successful program here at ISU. How did you adjust upon arrival and how much have you grown in your two short years here?
Stankoskey: I think Ive grown a lot and gained a lot of experience. Just by playing with the people here, Ive gained so much experience. Weve had so much success as a team.
Olson: I think last year it took a lot of adjusting but the older girls helped us a lot. Our seniors are very good role models. They knew what it was like winning championships and being successful, they made it easier for us transitioning.
What does this years senior class mean to you?
Stankoskey: Gabbi [McArtor] has been my rock. Whenever I have questions I can always go up to her. Shes really been a factor in why Ive been more confident and why our teams been really more successful. Gabbi is probably the best captain you could ever ask for.
Olson: I think all the seniors do a great job in leading us. Theyre the definition of success. Rachel [Tejada], shes the nations leading scorer. Aryn [Newsom], she has the most wins as a goalkeeper at ISU. They all give us as underclassmen a big confidence boost whenever we take the field with them.
Knowing youve brought this team this far in the NCAA Tournament, what does it mean to see Illinois State on the match line?
Olson: We love representing ISU and the MVC. We definitely know we belong in the remaining group of teams left. Weve put in our work and we know we deserve to be here and maybe even further. Were excited for whats left to come because weve taken ISU this far.
Youve exceeded expectations getting to the second round of the NCAAs, what do you want to take out of this weekend?
Stankoskey: We want to get to the third round. We know its possible. We want to keep playing well as a team. We potentially only have one more game left with our seniors and we really just want to put it all together. Win or lose, we will go all out and play our hardest this weekend.
Olson: The nice thing about it is its one of those games that you can just jump in and play. We cant really analyze their team; we dont know too much about their players. Were just going to bring our A-game and I think thats something our team does very well.
As the underclassmen on the team, are you guys ready for the future of the team after the seniors graduate?
Olson: We definitely want to carry on the winning tradition. Our schedule will always be getting harder because of the success this program has had but were ready to keep it rolling. We just want to keep building that chemistry. In the little time weve played with our freshmen, Emily Dickman and Kelli Zickert, what weve done switching things up on offense, were excited for the future. Rachel will be missed incredibly but were ready to fill in the missing pieces.
Stankoskey: The freshmen class, there is so much potential. Zickert and Dickman have really been able to contribute. As far as our sophomore class, I think everyone can really contribute to our defense and offense. Hannah [Leinert] and Brooke [Ksiazek] do an incredible job. Areas all over the field, I think us, as underclassmen are ready to hold it down. The seniors really have been great leaders.
Who do you have to credit for your success?
Stankoskey: I really want to credit Gabbi, she has really been a big factor. Shes always been my mentor, no matter what. All the seniors have been great along with my family. Coach Drew also for giving me playing time, allowing me to show out on the field. But definitely Gabbi, Ill really miss her when shes finally gone. Shes instilled so much into me as a defender.
Olson: My family has always been there, theyve always believed in me. Whenever times were tough, they always pushed me to do my hardest. My teammates and coaches as well. Theyve become my family. I couldnt be any more thankful for the soccer family Ive made at ISU.