The start of Abby Roberts’ senior season was already off to a less than stellar start, but things went from bad to worse when COVID-19 entered the conversation in March 2020.
“I couldn’t practice at the start of the season because I was still healing from a surgery on my wrist,” the recent Litchfield grad said. “Then when they cancelled the season, I was really upset about it at first.”
Fortunately, Roberts had a remedy for the blues about the lost campaign: more soccer. The daughter of Faith and Jeremy Johns, Roberts will continue her educational and athletic career at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, IA.
“I realized that I still get to go on and play more soccer,” Roberts said, which took the sting out of the missed opportunities to play with her teammates one last time.
During Roberts’ three years with the Purple Panthers, Litchfield won 37 of their 59 games, plus two regional championships. While the wins were fun, Roberts said some of the losses were just as memorable.
“We made a lot of good memories and had a lot of good games, like winning regionals last year,” said Roberts. “But even the bad games were fun. Like the Pana game, we all kind of bonded together over how much we wanted to beat them.
Some of those bonding moments are what Roberts will miss most. One of four seniors on this year’s team, she has played with much of the team since middle school.
“I’ll miss playing with the same people that I’ve played with throughout my soccer career,” Roberts said, mentioning Ellen Fleming and Devan and Jordan Morgan. “I’m just going to miss it.”
She has already got the chance to meet some of her future teammates though, thanks to video conferencing. Every Sunday, the Tigers meet via Zoom, something that would be impossible to do in person when you look at their roster.
“We have players from Brazil, Spain, Colorado, California, Washington and all over,” said Roberts, one of two players from Illinois. “We try to get as many together as possible, depending on everyone’s schedules.”
Last year, Iowa Wesleyan went 1-12-1, with a 4-2 win over Eureka the highlight of the season. A member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Tigers are 79-298-17 since their first season in 1996, with their best record coming in 2011 with nine wins and ten losses.
“Greenville University comes up here to Iowa and we go down to Carlinville, so I’ll get a chance to play against some of the same players I’ve played against the last few years,” Roberts said. Greenville, featuring Roberts’ former teammate Jade Taylor, visits on Oct. 7 (depending on the situation with the pandemic), while the Tigers take on the Beavers on Oct. 10.
Iowa Wesleyan’s record isn’t stellar, but second-year coach Chris Gaskin has experience in turning around a program, having guided his alma mater, Green Mountain College, to a Northeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship in 2018 and the women’s soccer program’s first winning season since 2006.
Off the field, Roberts is planning on majoring in biology and is looking forward to getting on campus with the other 600 some students enrolled at Iowa Wesleyan.
“I got something in the mail from them one day, inviting me to their Tiger Days and I figured why not,” Roberts said on how Mt. Pleasant became her post-prep destination. “I went and absolutely loved it.”
Here’s hoping that love continues, on and off the field, for the next four years.