GLASFORD, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — If the Illini Bluffs soccer team looks a little different than most boys teams, there’s a good reason.
There are nine girls on the roster of this small school program.
“I’ve been here ten years now and we’ve always had at least one girl on the team,” said Illini Bluffs soccer coach Gerard Smith. “This year we have nine or ten of them.”
For some of these girls, playing with the boys is old hat.
“I played with boys all through middle school and elementary school. So I’m fine with it,” said junior Ellory Shriver. “I was the only girl on the team some of the time.”
The girls are on the boys’ roster because Illini Bluffs doesn’t have a girls soccer program. The school has never had enough players to start a program.
But this year they are as close as they’ve ever been to having enough girls to create a team.
“Hopefully we can get a few more and we can get a girls team going,” Smith said. “There’s some seventh graders coming up, maybe some sixth graders as well. Hopefully we can get a girls team in the future.”
Illini Bluffs won four games last year and is 7-7-4 this year entering the final week of the regular season. The Tigers play in regionals on Saturday.
While the goal is to have the numbers to start a girls soccer team, the girls on the Illini Bluffs roster say they don’t mind playing with the boys. In fact, they say they are empowered by it.
“It makes me feel so cool,” said senior Ella Wight. “I like to brag I’m on the boys soccer team and how I keep up with them. And beat them up sometimes.”
Wight, an IB softball softball player, just started playing soccer last year to stay in shape for her spring sports season. A couple years ago, Illini Bluffs started allowing Farmington High School students to come join the team and the Tigers hope a few girls from that school district will play soccer.
“They come to play. They don’t shy out,” Smith said of his girls. “They are very tough, we’re lucky.
So until they can start their own team, the Illini Bluffs girls hang with the boys. And they hang right with them.