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updated: 5/15/2013 7:43 PM

Illini Caravan visits suburbs, Daily Herald subscribers

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  • University of Illinois coaches John Groce (men's basketball), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), Janet Rayfield (women's soccer), and Justin Spring (men's gymnastics) stopped to meet with Daily Herald premium subscribers Wednesday as part of the annual Illini Caravan.

       University of Illinois coaches John Groce (men's basketball), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), Janet Rayfield (women's soccer), and Justin Spring (men's gymnastics) stopped to meet with Daily Herald premium subscribers Wednesday as part of the annual Illini Caravan.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • University of Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce shares a laugh with Doug Ray, president and CEO of Paddock Publications, on Wednesday as the Illini Caravan rolled into Rolling Meadows to meet with Daily Herald premium subscribers.

       University of Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce shares a laugh with Doug Ray, president and CEO of Paddock Publications, on Wednesday as the Illini Caravan rolled into Rolling Meadows to meet with Daily Herald premium subscribers.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), John Groce (men's basketball), and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) answer questions at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), John Groce (men's basketball), and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) answer questions at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics) and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) talk with Selwyn Schwartz of Hoffman Estates at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics) and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) talk with Selwyn Schwartz of Hoffman Estates at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Daily Herald premium subscribers prepare to listen to University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), John Groce (men's basketball), and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       Daily Herald premium subscribers prepare to listen to University of Illinois coaches Justin Spring (men's gymnastics), Matt Bollant (women's basketball), John Groce (men's basketball), and Janet Rayfield (women's soccer) at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • University of Illinois women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield answers questions from the audience at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       University of Illinois women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield answers questions from the audience at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Illinois women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield talks with Hilary Carlson, left, of Bloomingdale, and Cheryl Wittler, right, of Wheaton, at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       Illinois women's soccer coach Janet Rayfield talks with Hilary Carlson, left, of Bloomingdale, and Cheryl Wittler, right, of Wheaton, at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce signs an autograph for Walter Szuck of Pingree Grove at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.

       Illinois men's basketball coach John Groce signs an autograph for Walter Szuck of Pingree Grove at the Illini Caravan event Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Illini Caravan event

 
 

Janet Rayfield, longtime women's soccer coach at the University of Illinois, said Wednesday that the Chicago area, including the suburbs, is key to the success of the school's program.

"This area is a great producer of soccer talent," she said, later adding that she considers Illini junior Vanessa DiBernardo, a Naperville native, to be "one of the best (young) players in the world."

Rayfield made her comments in front of fans and Daily Herald premium subscribers at Meridian Banquets in Rolling Meadows. The event was part of the Illini Caravan, an annual statewide tour featuring coaches and athletes from the university.

Men's basketball coach John Groce, women's basketball coach Matt Bollant and men's gymnastics coach Justin Spring joined Rayfield in Rolling Meadows. Daily Herald Sports Editor Tom Quinlan moderated the discussion.

The coaches talked about their teams' most recent seasons and what lies ahead for them.

"People say to me, how's your team? I tell them we're not a team yet," Groce said, referring to the fact that next season's squad will feature many new faces. He said he looks forward to working with the newcomers when they arrive on campus in June.

Bollant and Spring, who like Groce are relatively new to the university, said they've been impressed by the culture and excitement on campus. Bollant added that the university's stellar academic reputation has helped recruiting efforts.

"It's what I hoped for," he said.

Rayfield encouraged suburban alumni and fans to talk up the university.

"Your excitement and passion helps us recruit," she said.

This is the second consecutive year that the Daily Herald has partnered with the Illini Caravan tour.

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