In her 15 seasons as head coach of the Fighting Illini, Janet Rayfield has established the University of Illinois women’s soccer team as one of the premier programs in the nation. Year after year, her Illinois teams break school records and set new benchmarks for conference and national levels of success.
Rayfield has led Illinois to the NCAA Tournament in 10 of her 15 seasons at the helm, highlighted by the Illini’s fourth Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2013. She has coached seven players to nine conference Player of the Year honors during her tenure, and has seen five players taken in the NWSL draft following their college careers. The Orange and Blue scored the most goals under Rayfield with 54 in 2013, just three goals shy of the school record, and finished the year ranked No. 25 by the NSCAA. She coached Big Ten Forward of the Year Jannelle Flaws to a school-record 23 goals, which was tied for the most in the NCAA. Vanessa DiBernardo, who became Illinois’ highest drafted player in school history following the season, completed her decorated career No. 3 on the all-time list with 43 goals along with being named a Capital One second-team Academic All-American and an NSCAA third team Scholar All-American.
Rayfield’s 2016 squad came out to a strong start, shutting out three consecutive opponents to open the campaign. Rayfield coached the Illini to three more shutouts throughout the year, including an upset victory over the 19th-ranked Michigan Wolverines. A major asset to the Illini defense, senior Hope D’Addario earned All-Big Ten recognition at the conclusion of the season, and 15 Illini were honored for their work in the classroom as they were named Academic All-Big Ten honorees.
In her 13th season with the Illini, Rayfield guided veteran Illini all-star Jannelle Flaws to her second consective Big Ten Forward of the Year honor, and also saw her receive NSCAA Third Team All-American recognition. Rayfield guided the Illini to their 11th Big Ten tournament appearance and the team finished with 10 wins on the season.
Flaws continued to impress in Rayfield’s 14th season as she reset Illinois’ all-time goals record. The record-breaking goal was scored in style as she tallied the second-fastest hat trick in school history. With Rayfield’s coaching, Flaws graduated as one of Illinois’ most prolific players, holding the school records for career goals, points, shots and shots on goal. Rayfield guided the Illini to several significant wins in the 2015 season, upsetting No. 11-ranked and previously undefeated Rutgers in the Big Ten home opener. Junior Allison Stucky was credited with the first goal against the Scarlet Knights all season in the victory. Rayfield’s squad qualified for its fifth-consecutive Big Ten Tournament with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota in the regular season finale.
Rayfield not only has a wealth of soccer experience but also a fierce determination to succeed and an immense amount of respect from her peers. Rayfield served as President of the NSCAA, an organization that includes over 16,000 members, in 2003-04. In addition, she continues to assist at the youth national team level whenever possible.
A United States Soccer Federation ‘A’ Licensed Coach, Rayfield was an assistant for Illinois in 1999 under former head coach Tricia Taliaferro and helped the Illini to a 12-8-1 record and the school’s first-ever trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. That season, the Illini entered the NSCAA poll for the first time and climbed as high as No. 15.
Rayfield returned to Illinois in 2002 after serving two years as a United States National Staff Coach for Region II. Her duties consisted of player identification, player development and coaching education within the region. During that time, she also served as a U-19 and U-16 National Team Assistant Coach.
In her playing days, Rayfield was one of the best. She played collegiately at the University of North Carolina from 1979-82 and helped build the program from the ground up. She led the Tar Heels to the 1981 AIAW National Championship and a 23-0 record in only their third year. That season, Rayfield took home the Nike Player of the Year award, All-America honors and was named one of the top 10 soccer players in America (male or female).