Holy Cow, Arguably Among the Top Players in 16 Inch Softball History, Kenny Flaws has a super star Daughter Jannelle making huge headlines in the Soccer World.
Illini soccer star Flaws perseveres through two ACL surgeries
Glenbrook South alumna leads host Illinois into Big Ten tournament as nation’s No. 2 goal scorer
Illini striker Jannelle Flaws has come back from two ACL surgeries. (Darrell Hoemann / )
The knee-high pass came to Illinois striker Jannelle Flaws at the top of the box with 21 minutes left and her team trailing 1-0 on Thursday at Minnesota.
Standing with her back to the net, Flaws played the pass to the ground with her left leg and dribbled the ball twice with her right foot as she turned 90 degrees to her left. Then she suddenly whirled another 90 degrees and rocketed a right-footed shot that hooked across the Minnesota net and past the goalie.
“I’ve watched it over and over, and I’m still not sure how she was running (one) way and finished a goal in the opposite direction,” Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said.
It was the goal that started the comeback to a 3-1 win that saved the Illini’s season, ensuring they would be spared the embarrassment of not playing in the Big Ten tournament they are hosting this week. They went from ninth in the standings to wind up with the fifth seed in the eight-team tournament and a matchup with Indiana on Wednesday night.
It was the goal that underscored how completely Flaws had come back from two ACL surgeries that had kept her from playing in two of the first three seasons after she left Glenbrook South as the school’s all-time leading scorer. The power on that shot came partly from the snap of a right knee repaired with a piece of her patellar tendon.
It was her 20th goal this season, one behind the NCAA Division I leader. Her 19th, in another must-win game four days earlier, broke the Illini single-season record set by New Trier’s Emily Brown in 1999.
“To have that kind of pure goal scorer is a coach’s dream,” Rayfield said. “To have that goal scorer be someone who has gone through that kind of injury is even more phenomenal.”
Flaws scored both of the latest goals with a large white bandage over her left eye, covering the five-stitch injury she received after banging heads with a Penn State player Oct. 20.
“What happened to my knee makes the little injuries not seem so bad,” Flaws said. “It makes me want to fight through them.”
She has not missed a game this season despite a groin pull, bruised shins and muscles and a rolled ankle. There is a lot of lost time to make up for.
“It makes me appreciate this more because I was able to do it after having to struggle first,” said Flaws, who was named Big Ten Forward of the Year on Tuesday.
She hurt the knee the first time June 4, 2010, as Glenbrook South lost to Waubonsie Valley — and future Illini star Vanessa DiBernardo — in the Class 3A semifinals. A July 31 surgery to repair the ACL meant Flaws would redshirt her first year in Champaign.
When she returned for the 2011 season, Flaws quickly realized she lacked the overall fitness to keep up with the pace of college play. She would be a scorer who didn’t score.
“Then my confidence started to go, and I started thinking maybe I’m not the same player I was in high school,” she said.
She scored just three goals and took just 28 shots in 22 games. Her knee still was bothering her, and it gave way again during practice in March 2012. Another surgery in early April. Another six-month rehab. Another season gone.
“It was hard to know I had to go through it all over again,” she said. “There are always moments of doubt and frustration, but never to the point I thought it would stop my career.”
Rayfield knew that from how Flaws acted while she couldn’t play. She remained totally engaged with the team, assimilating and processing tactical information while watching from the sidelines in a way the coach has seen few athletes do.
Flaws incorporated that knowledge into her game this season, in which she has taken 95 shots in 20 games. That offense has been critical in the absence of DiBernardo, a 17-goal scorer two years ago who returned to limited action last week after missing nearly half the season with a knee sprain.
“I don’t think there was doubt about Jannelle scoring goals,” Rayfield said. “It’s instinctive, and those instincts don’t go away.
“The real question was whether she was going to get back to a place physically and a fitness level to do it. The answer is in the results we’ve seen this fall. And she’s certainly not done developing yet.”
Flaws, on track to graduate in the summer, will get a fifth year of eligibility at Illinois and likely will petition for a sixth.
She has become better than the player she was. No wonder she wants more.
A Powerful Father Daughter Combo of Flaws and Flaws. Kenny Flaws is recognized as on the short list of greatest 16 inch softball players ever!! Of course the wife had a lot to do with it as well. All of us in the 16 Inch Softball World send our best to the Flaws Family of Glenview.
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