Women’s soccer heads to West Coast

By Majesh Abraham

After a sweep of both home games this weekend, the surging Illini soccer team will head west to San Francisco for the City by the Bay Classic.

The Illini will be facing No. 23 Stanford on Friday, and finish the tournament against San Francisco on Sunday.

This is the first time the Illini will face Stanford (2-1-0), who is also coming off a 2-0 weekend at home. The Cardinals defeated San Jose State 5-0, and San Francisco 2-0, and have yet to allow a goal in the second half this season.

This Sunday’s game will also be the team’s first ever against San Francisco, which has struggled so far, losing three out of the first four games this season. They have been shutout twice this season, including last week’s loss against Stanford, in which they only attempted four shots.

“There’s a lot of excitement to be playing on the West Coast and to have a chance of playing teams that we’ve never played before,” said head coach Janet Rayfield.

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The Illini on the other hand, are regaining their confidence after a disappointing start to the season. Last Friday, the team shutout No. 17 Nebraska, 1-0, in a rematch of last year’s Sweet Sixteen. The team finished off the weekend last Sunday with another shutout over Western Illinois, 3-0.

“After last weekend, (especially) knowing that we can compete and beat a ranked team, our confidence is a lot higher,” Rayfield said. “We still need to work on some things, but we’re confident now because we played the way we’re capable of and were successful.”

The strength of the team has been its impenetrable defense, which has only allowed one goal all fall. Leading the way is sophomore goalie Lindsey Carstens, who has posted three straight shutouts, and is looking to extend that streak this weekend.

“I feel wonderful playing behind our team,” Carstens said. “They don’t let that many shots off, and I haven’t needed to block that many shots. I kind of attribute all the confidence that I have and the shutouts to the team.”

The offense has also picked up after a slow start. The Illini have attempted thirty-nine shots in the last two games, led by senior Natasha Karniski, who picked up two goals over the weekend.

“It helped to break that goal drought,” said Karniski. “Now everyone is going to start contributing and the goals are going to just keep coming, since we have that first goal in.”

The Illini picked up its 100th victory in team history with the win over Western Illinois, and almost half, 43, have been under Rayfield’s guidance.

“The team that you saw over the weekend is the team that we trained to be,” Rayfield said. “They played with the kind of fight and style that we built this program around.”