Soccer falls to Michigan

By Derek Barichello

In a matter of 48 hours, Illini soccer went from recording one of its worst games of the season and winning – to playing an intense, well-fought match, and losing.

On Friday, the Illini defeated Michigan State 1-0 in overtime, while on Sunday they played one of their best games of the season but lost 1-0 to No. 25 Michigan.

Sunday’s loss was the first of the season for the Illini, dropping their record to 7-1 and 1-1 in the Big Ten.

“We’re disappointed,” said sophomore forward Jessica Bayne. “We felt like we should’ve won and we still feel like we were the better team.”

In Sunday’s game, Michigan took control, scoring the only goal of the game 13 minutes into the first half. The Illini created opportunities to tie, recording five shots in the second half, but only one of those shots was on goal.

“We created some chances and played with heart,” said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield. “Michigan’s frontrunners were able to win those key balls which ended up being the difference-maker in today’s game.”

In Friday’s game, the Illini won ugly. They recorded 16 shots in regulation but could not put the ball in the net.

Finally, in the sixth minute of overtime, Bayne won it for the Illini on an assist from junior defender Natasha Karniski.

“This was a wake up call,” Rayfield said. “When the game goes down to overtime, you end up leaving it all to chance. All it takes is one play to win or lose it.”

Although the Illini do not want to have any more games like Friday’s the rest of the year, they believe it was good for their confidence to come away with a win when they do not play well.

“We realized that if we keep our heads up, stay in the game and continue to fight, that we can win any game,” Karniski said.

Rayfield said the key to the weekend was the team’s inability to finish on its scoring opportunities. She said it will be a focus once again in practice this week.

“We need to make a lot better decisions attacking,” Rayfield said. “We need to time our runs in the box better, we need to time our corner kicks and take advantage of those opportunities. Those things will improve when we get back to practice and train together for a whole week.”

The Illini believe the loss to Michigan could help the team in the long run.

“I think it hurts and that’s a good thing,” Rayfield said. “Outcome is not the only way we judge our performance. When we put it all into perspective, we want to get better everyday. We definitely played better on Sunday than we did on Friday.”

Despite playing five games in ten days, the Illini were able to come into the weekend with a high level of energy.

“It was a positive sign to see our energy level so high,” Rayfield said. “We have a lot of heart and a lot of fight. If we are able to keep that energy level as high as it is when we get back into the rhythm of playing less, it will pay off.”