Solid outings lead to perfect weekend

By Chris Cook

The Illinois men’s club soccer team had three good outings as it defeated Northern Illinois, Indiana and Sothern Illinois at home last weekend. The Illini continue to cruise towards Regionals in Indiana on Oct. 29.

Senior midfielder Tunji Yusuf said the team is starting to anticipate “that special time of year.”

“After a weekend like this, your body is pretty beat up,” he said. “But we’re buzzed about the tournament coming up.”

Against Northern Illinois Saturday morning, the Illini overcame what sophomore defender Adam Biernacki described as “another sluggish start” to get the 3-1 victory. The players thought it was a big win because it got them back on track after a slow week.

“Last week, we had some bad practices and an unfortunate scrimmage against Parkland,” junior midfielder Dan Wallenberg said. “I think this weekend was a big turning point for the rest of the season and what’s to come.”

Illinois got a big game from sophomore midfielder Jamal Gorham, who scored his first two goals of the season.

“We don’t have any individual superstars and need everyone to contribute,” Yusuf said. “During warm-ups, Jamal told me he was going to step up and he did.”

Yusuf himself added a strong weekend.

“I contributed both offensively and defensively,” he said. “In my position that’s what you have to do.”

Senior midfielder Kyle Ledbetter scored the last goal.

The second game was a highly anticipated matchup with Indiana – one of the best teams on Illinois’ regular season schedule.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” Biernacki said. “They’re skilled and very physical.”

In a tight game, however, Illinois shut out Indiana’s offense and scored a goal apiece from Ledbetter and junior forward Dave Brown for the 2-0 win.

“Taking the lead is big for us,” Wallenberg said. “It allows us to sub more which is important when you play three games in two days.”

Last Sunday, the Illini had a tough first half against Southern Illinois despite taking the lead on a free kick from Biernacki.

“I have to admit it was supposed to be a cross, but somehow it went in,” he said.

Towards the end of the half, Southern Illinois got one back on a penalty kick.

The Illinois players were clearly disappointed at halftime, and none more than player/coach Dan Malloy.

“It’s not funny anymore,” he said in his halftime speech. “We’ve got to focus and put away our chances.”

The Illini came out firing in the second half and had an early shot bounce off the post. Minutes later, they were robbed as an opposing player stopped the ball from going into the net with his hand.

However, the team never got disheartened, and before long it had a 3-1 lead behind goals from Brown and Ledbetter. Toward the end, junior forward Tony Cook scored another goal to complete the 4-1 victory.

Illinois plays its final two games of the regular season against Loyola and Ball State next weekend.