Men’s club soccer scores regional bid

By Kyle Betts

The Illinois men’s club soccer team went into their final regular season matches with an opportunity to put themselves in a great position for the postseason with victories over conference rivals.

Facing off against Michigan State and Northwestern this past weekend in Champaign, Illinois was playing for their seeding in the upcoming regional tournament. By winning both games, Illinois also had a chance to clinch an automatic bid to the national tournament.

“This weekend we knew we were facing two really good teams,” junior defender Adam Biernacki said. “Michigan State was ahead of us in points and Northwestern had pulled off some pretty big upsets.”

Senior captain Rickie Partyka said Illinois started uncharacteristically slow but picked up the intensity quickly against Michigan State and fought the Spartans hard to reach halftime tied 0-0.

Coming out in the second half, Michigan State scored quickly but Illinois responded by dominating the rest of the half on defense.

By shutting down the Spartans, the Illini created several scoring opportunities on offense but were unable to follow through.

“We dominated the second half even after conceding a goal but we were unable to put the ball in the back of the net,” Biernacki said.

The inability to capitalize on their scoring chances caused Illinois to fall to Michigan State 1-0. The Illini now needed a win against Northwestern to guarantee a spot at the regional tournament.

Unlike the previous game, Illinois came out strong and dominated Northwestern in all aspects of the game.

“Northwestern was visibly tired when we began our second game,” Partyka said. “We were running at them and controlling the possession and, for the most part, doing everything right.”

Although they were in complete control of the game, Illinois was unable to make good on their scoring opportunities and went into halftime tied 0-0.

Coming out in the second half, Illinois continued the dominant play, which eventually led to a goal by Partyka.

The Illinois defense had all they needed and took over. The team stopped any attempt by the Northwestern offense to get a shot on goal.

“TJ King, Adam Biernacki, and Gerrigh Tjelle did an excellent job of shutting down their forwards as soon as they received the ball,” Partyka said.

The Illini finished their season with a 10-2-3 overall record. The win also put the team into the regional tournament on Oct. 28-29 in Bloomington, Ind., where they will play for a bid to the national tournament.

“We know that we will be playing several teams that we’ve played already and every game is going to be a battle,” said Biernacki about the upcoming regional tournament.