Walk-on defender steps up (Women’s Soccer)

Teddy Kider

By Teddy Kider

The Daily Northwestern

Tori Bohannon was never recruited by a Division I women’s soccer program.

Since the second game of Northwestern’s season, though, she has started for one. The 18-year-old freshman from Neenah, Wis., has become an integral part of the NU women’s soccer team (6-5, 2-3 Big Ten), starting 10 of the Wildcats’ 11 games.

Bohannon, a defender, is the only walk-on member of this year’s squad, and she is already proving to be a successful addition to the Cats.

“She’s definitely a really important part of our team,” coach Jenny Haigh said. “She does such a great job on our defense, and we really rely on her.”

A high school soccer star, Bohannon was sidelined in the middle of her junior season when she tore her left medial collateral ligament.

“I had never hurt anything seriously before, so it was really scary,” Bohannon said. “At first, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll be back tomorrow.’ It was at least a month.”

Bohannon was able to return for the state tournament at the end of the season, in which her school placed second. But the chance of recruitment was gone.

Not even sure that she would continue on to collegiate soccer, Bohannon was accepted via early decision to NU. After her senior year, she decided to try her hand at Big Ten athletics.

“I think it was because my senior year in high school was so much fun, and I realized how much I loved the game, what a big part of my life it was,” Bohannon said. “I had a good summer, and I really wanted to stick with it, or at least try to.”

Meanwhile, Haigh was not completely unaware of Bohannon’s talent.

“I heard (of Tori) from a guy who watched probably 15 years of Wisconsin women’s soccer, and he compared her to a player who I played with (at Wisconsin), a multi-year All-American,” said Haigh. “He compared them athletically, and when I got a recommendation that had such a strong frame of reference…it peaked my curiosity.”

Haigh said Bohannon “came in really convinced that she could add to our program,” and the defender proved as much in tryouts.

In addition to playing defense, Bohannon has made fielding corner kicks her specialty.

“She’s not really part of our offense all that much except for on-set pieces, because she’s really good and dangerous in the air,” said Haigh. “She’s courageous and athletic, and those are great tools to have on corner kicks.”

Bohannon’s specialty was reflected in Sunday’s game at Wisconsin (6-6-1, 2-4), as the freshman headed a corner kick into the opposing net for her first score of the year and the Cats’ only goal of the game.

“It felt awesome, especially since I’m from Wisconsin,” said Bohannon. “I had friends and family there, so it was neat. And I always love scoring with my head.”

With a home game against No. 14 Penn State (10-2-2, 4-1) on Friday, and another against No. 11 Ohio State (8-1-2, 2-1-2) on Sunday, Bohannon will have her hands full both on offense and defense this weekend.

“With Penn State … we really need to minimize their quality scoring chances and make the most of our attacking opportunities,” said Haigh. “Ohio State is a very direct team, which means the ball’s going to be up in the air a lot more and set pieces are very important.

“Tori will have a lot of responsibility this weekend, and that’s good. Tori is a great athlete, and she’s been very steady on the field. She’s doing a great job.”