Soccer to host UW in Big Ten opener

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Derek Barichello

If the Illini soccer team is going to win the Big Ten championship this season, it will be important to win its conference games at home, starting on Sunday, when they host Wisconsin at 2 p.m. at the Illinois Track and Soccer Field.

No. 10 Illinois is 1-1 in conference and 9-1 overall, winning both of its games in Champaign this season.

“It is so important to win whether you are home or on the road,” said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield. “We’d love to take advantage of the fact that we have six home games left in the Big Ten, but any Big Ten game you play is important. We want to win every game, regardless.”

The Illini are happy to be back home. They have only played two home games this season; their last was Sept. 14 against Kansas.

“Playing at home is a huge advantage,” said senior goalkeeper Leisha Alcia. “The atmosphere here for a Big Ten game is incredible.”

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    The Illini defense continues to produce impressive numbers in the Big Ten, leading the conference in shutouts with five and in least goals allowed with three. Alcia leads the Big Ten in saves, saves per game and shutouts and ranks sixth in goals against average.

    The Illini hope to contain Badger midfielder Katy Lindenmuth and forward Amy Vermeulen, who returns this season after sitting out 2003 due to an injury.

    Lindenmuth – a 2003 second-team All-Big Ten selection – leads the Badgers in assists and has three goals on the season.

    Vermeulen has accounted for 27 shots, eight goals and three assists so far this season, leading the Badgers in goals, points and shots.

    After starting 6-0 this season, Wisconsin enters Sunday’s game after a heartbreaking Big Ten opening weekend where they went 0-1-1. The Badgers lost 4-0 to No. 5 Penn State last Friday, but managed a 0-0 tie against Ohio State on Sunday.

    Wisconsin leads the all-time series 5-3, but in the last meeting the Illini won 2-1 in Madison, Wis.