Since their freshman year, Maddie Diamond and Becky Painter have been key parts of the success of the Litchfield High School girls soccer team. Now, the two teammates will see if they can have the same impact at the next level as members of the Parkland College Cobras.
“I’ve always wanted to play soccer in college. Ever since I was little, it’s been my dream,” Diamond said about signing to play for Parkland. “When I was young, I remember writing, ‘I want to go to college for soccer.’ When I finally got it, I was so excited, especially since I get to go with my teammate.”
Together, Diamond and Painter have been the starter and the stopper, so to speak, for Litchfield girls soccer.
Diamond, a forward, has led the team in goals each of her three years (the 2019-20 season was cancelled due to COVID-19). With 14 goals as a freshman, 19 as a sophomore and 13 as a senior, going into Tuesday’s sectional semifinal against Alton Marquette, Diamond has an impressive 46 goals in 45 games. With 12 assists mixed in, the recent grad has proven to be one of the most punishing offensive forces in the South Central Conference, if not beyond.
Painter, the team’s goalkeeper, came to the Panthers as more of an athlete than a pure soccer player. A standout in basketball and volleyball as well, Painter learned to play in net quickly, notching 13 shutouts and helping Litchfield to 31 wins in 50 games over her three seasons, including a regional championship in 2019.
Despite her success in goal, Painter hasn’t always embraced the position.
“I didn’t want anything to do with it. I wanted to be running,” Painter said. “That’s why I played the sport, to run, but she stuck me in goal and I loved it.”
“She” is Coach Dominique Byots, who both Painter and Diamond credit for their success on the field at Litchfield.
“She got me to where I am now. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be going to college for soccer. She’s been that support system and has led us up to where this team is now,” Diamond said of Byots, whose first year was in 2017-18, when Painter and Diamond were freshmen. “We were her babies when she first came in. We all grew up together through this whole soccer experience in high school.”
While the on-field success has been evident, the off-field support is what has really stood out for both players.
“I know I’m going to miss my class like crazy. We’ve all been playing varsity since we were freshmen,” Painter said.
“We have a really good support system here. A lot of people show up to our games, no matter what,” Diamond said. “We keep a positive attitude when it comes to certain things.”
That attitude will come in handy at Parkland, where the Cobras have had a few tough years, but went to the National Junior College Athletics Association in 2016. In other sports Parkland has been even better, with stellar reputations in golf, baseball, basketball, volleyball and softball, where Litchfield grad Emily Senjan was a standout pitcher for the 2021 Cobras.
While soccer is on the menu for the next two years of their lives, neither Painter nor Diamond are sure if it will be in the cards after their time in Parkland is complete.
Diamond, who took CNA classes at Litchfield, is planning to transfer to the University of Alabama after her time in Champaign is done.
“They have a really good nursing and medical program,” Diamond explained about her plans to head south after her second year. “I’ve always been really interested in the medical field.”
Painter is planning to pursue numbers instead of needles, with hopes of moving on to a university with a major in actuary science.
“Mr. Yoch, our stats teacher, was always talking about actuaries, so I took a look at it and I thought it was really interesting,” Painter said on how she became interested in actuary science. “Not many places have an actuary major, except bigger schools. It would be awesome if I got a scholarship to go to a bigger school, but if I don’t, I’ll just focus on my studies more.”
While soccer may not be a long term career for Diamond and Painter, it’s given them the opportunity to make a lot of memories at Litchfield, with more on their way at Parkland.