Belleville East girls soccer players Annie Brown and Grace Brauer never wavered after making their verbal commitments to colleges.
Brown, a midfielder, signed a letter of intent with Illinois-Chicago this week; Brauer, a forward, signed with Xavier. Both players committed as sophomores.
“These past six months, I’ve finished up my club season and then everything began to feel real,” said Brown, who had five goals and seven assists for the Lancers last season. “I signed, I’m getting all the stuff for my uniform ... It’s really exciting.”
Brown, who will major in nursing, doesn’t know what position she will play for the Flames, who were 7-13 overall and 5-4 in the Horizon League last season.
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Wherever she’s used, Brown is determined to improve.
“Really, just continue to work on my mental game and my tactics,” Brown said. “I think I’ll be playing up the middle, either center back, holding midfielder or attacking mid. I’ll work on my field vision, getting stronger and faster. I’m more of an assister. It’s always fun to score, but making that good pass is just as important as the goal.”
Brauer has amassed 52 goals and 16 assists in her first three seasons. As a junior, she had 26 goals, including two four-goal games and two three-goal games.
“They’ve been in the picture for a long time now,” Brauer said of the Musketeers, who were 8-8-4 overall and 4-3-2 in the Big East Conference. “I don’t think it hit me until I officially signed. People asked me, ‘Are you excited? Are you nervous?’ I never had a good answer because it didn’t seem real. It’s been in the picture for such a long time, and now it’s finally here.”
Brauer, who will major in business, uses her speed and instincts to create scoring chances.
“I’m very versatile. I can play anywhere, but center forward is where I’m most strong, and I think that’s where I’ll be most of the season,” said Brauer, who hopes to reach the 30-goal level this spring. “Absolutely. But there’s no way I can get that done without Annie giving me the amazing assists that she does. I hope it all works out.”
Brown also talked to Indiana State, Xavier and Oral Roberts.
“UIC, I’ve been interested in them since my eighth-grade year,” she said. “I started talking to them my freshman year. I always wanted to go to school in Chicago. My sister (Ari) goes to the University of Illinois-Chicago, and that was one of the contributing factors. And I really love my coach (Brian Rigby). He’s an amazing guy. High energy.”
Brauer said she received overtures from other schools, but Xavier was the clear winner. The Musketeers are coached by Nate Lie.
“There were a handful of schools I was talking to on top of Xavier,” she said. “But just the atmosphere, the campus, I liked Xavier more and that’s what drew me to them.”