It was a normal Saturday in early September, and St. Scholastica soccer player Britt Walle was feeling just fine. In fact, she had just attended soccer practice at the CSS upper field after having had a physical earlier that day.
Though not a person to take naps, Walle said she was feeling exhausted, so she lay down for a bit. Trouble began when she awoke hours later.
"I woke up at 11 p.m. with a terrible fever and spinning headache," Walle said. "It just came out of nowhere."
When her fever didn't go down and she began to feel worse, Walle knew something was wrong.
"My fever just got worse and I pretty much felt like I couldn't move anything and would not be able to make it out of bed anytime soon," Walle said.
It was a normal Tuesday morning a couple weeks ago when senior soccer player Ellyn Litecky woke up a with a tight chest and a cough. By the end of the afternoon she felt feverish, weak and tired and couldn't go to practice.
Though Litecky thought she was feeling better the next day, it was really only the beginning of what would become her four-day battle with a critical illness.
"I thought I could go to school, so I was getting ready in the morning, but I threw up and almost passed out," Litecky said. "I couldn't do anything but lie on the couch for four days."
According to head women's soccer Coach Dave Reyelts, Walle and Litecky are just two of the 10 to 12 players who contracted H1N1 or other illnesses throughout the 2009 season.
Sickness began spreading when the team returned from a trip to England where they had been training, playing matches against European teams, and touring the country in late August.
"When we came back from England, everyone was really sick with some symptoms of H1N1 but we weren't sure," mid-fielder Megan Flesvig said.
Like most players who fell ill, neither Litecky nor Walle were tested for H1N1, but both exhibited the symptoms and were not allowed to participate with the team.
Senior captain Angela Groh said that as the season progressed this fall, at least half the team missed a game or practice due to illness.
"There have been more people sick this year that in the past three years I have been here," Groh said.
Assistant Coach Morgan MacLean said he has been very impressed with the athletic training staff during the period of illness this fall.
"Our athletic training staff did an incredible job at keeping the kids and coaches informed about the virus and letting us know about the correct precautions to take," MacLean said.
Both Reyelts and MacLean said the team took extra safety measures to avoid the spread of illness during the season. Anyone showing symptoms was told to keep herself isolated and contact health services, MacLean said.
Groh said players showing symptoms of the H1N1 were told not to come to practice or even come in contact with teammates.
"When sick, we weren't even allowed to sit on the bench to watch the game," Groh said, noting that players were also asked to bring their own water bottles rather than share team water bottles.
Both Litecky and Walle said they were told to stay isolated in their rooms, and Walle was even sent home by athletic trainers until she felt better.
"Anyone feeling flu-like symptoms was not allowed to come to practice and was quarantined to their room," Litecky said. "They were not allowed to come back until they were fever free for 24 hours."
With so many teammates missing from games and practices, Walle said the team was put at a disadvantage.
"The first weeks after England were rough," Walle said. "A lot of impact players didn't dress for games which gave us an disadvantage for sure."
Abby Arrowsmith, who battled illness twice this season, said sickness on the team affected a number of important games early in the season.
"The team was definitely affected by our illnesses this season. Unfortunately many people were still out and/or not feeling 100 percent after a battle with illness when we had some key non-conference games at the beginning of the season," Arrowsmith said. "Those games could have gone a different direction if we were healthy and able to put our best foot forward."
Walle said a number of impact players did not dress for games, which put the team at a disadvantage.
MacLean said he also feels that the abundance of illness this fall has affected this season, especially more than past seasons.
"The duration and debilitating symptoms were affected greatly, which just meant the girls had to work harder to stay in shape and keep their health up," MacLean said.
A number of players can attest that it was hard to keep up their health and stamina as illness spread.
"I'm feeling better now, but ever since I was sick I've felt kind of out of shape," Walle said. "I just feel like I never bounced back to the shape I was in before."
Litecky said she too felt the fatigue when she relaced her cleats and stepped back on the field.
"It was hard to get back into it," Litecky said. "I felt really drained and it was hard to breath, so the trainers only allowed me to practice for one hour during my first practice back."
Arrowsmith said that the sickness had left her weak and her immune system low, which played a part in her getting sick twice this season.
"I think that battling the remnants of illness while trying to get the most out of practice left me feeling sluggish at practice and left my immune system down," Arrowsmith said. "I caught another string of something just a few weeks after I started feeling better, and it has probably affected my overall condition this season."
Ill players faced the unexpected dilemma concerning dedication: should they participate and potentially infect teammates, or should they take a step back from activity for a while as to not spread illness?
"It's difficult with any situation when a team is not able to function as a whole," Litecky said. "You want to stay involved and dedicated, but you don't want to risk getting anyone else sick."
Despite the setbacks of illness this season, MacLean has applauded the women's efforts to stay healthy and in shape.
"To give the team credit, they did an outstanding job at keeping in shape and doing the correct things to stay healthy," MacLean said.
Even while battling the rapidly spreading illnesses this fall, the team has managed to pull of another winning season (17-3-2) and recently won its third straight conference title. The team made its third straight appearance at the NCAA tournament.
"We have a great team," Litecky said. "We worked hard for one another, especially as players got sick throughout the season."