When former Rochelle soccer standout Olivia Piloni took the field as a first-year starter for the Wisconsin-Stevens Point women’s team in the WIAC Championship tournament this season, the Lady Hub graduate knew she belonged at the collegiate level.
Piloni started in the midfield for most of her freshman season before injuries to some of her teammates moved her to a center back position for the latter portion of conference play. Piloni appeared in all 19 of the team’s games this season, earning 17 starts and logging at least 90 minutes in 15 games. The Pointers finished 11-5-3, reaching the quarterfinals of the WIAC tournament and earning an NCAA Division III Championship bid for the first time in 10 years.
“This season, I had the chance to get to know and become close with some of the best people I’ve ever met,” Piloni said. “For a while, I wasn’t sure if playing collegiately was an option for me, so being a starter in the WIAC tournament was surreal. I’ve enjoyed spending time with the people I now have in my life, and I’ve also enjoyed traveling and competing at this level.”
Piloni, who’s currently studying interior design and architecture, said the biggest adjustments she’s made to the collegiate game are training year-round and adapting to a higher level of play. The two-time Northern Illinois Big 12 All-Conference player said she’s aiming to continue starting for the Pointers next season, whether that be in the midfield or the backfield.
“I think this season, I was someone who could be moved back when needed,” Piloni said. “Next season, I’d like to see myself become more of an attacker, and I’d like to gain more confidence. Next season, I’m hoping to keep my starting position in either the back or the midfield. I’m also hoping that we can make it back to the NCAA tournament and go farther.”
Piloni finished her freshman campaign with three shots and one shot on goal. Piloni, who led all UWSP players with 1,653 minutes played, will be one of nine freshmen eligible to return to the program next season. Piloni was one of seven women to play all 19 games, one of five women to start at least 17 games and one of only two women to start all seven conference matches and play 630 minutes.