Women’s soccer gains wins twice



By Steve Contorno

If the Illinois defense puts together weekends like Friday and Sunday’s during the regular season, opponents will have a difficult time scoring any goals against the Illini.

For back-to-back exhibitions the Illinois women’s soccer team posted a shutout en route to two 1-0 victories. On Friday the Illini defeated Butler and on Sunday they took care of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Head coach Janet Rayfield said Sunday’s match was a good gauge of where the team is, considering that Wisconsin-Milwaukee perennially makes the national tournament.

“I feel good about the tactical way we’re playing, the movement we’ve got and we just have to convert some of that into goals,” Rayfield said. “It was good today to get a game-like feel to see how we respond and see what our game endurance is going to be like. I think we walk out of here knowing what we need to work on and confident going into the season.”

In the first half, freshman Jordan Hilbrands, a 5’0” forward, scored the team’s lone goal. Last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chichi Nweke threaded a pass between defenders and hit Hilbrands in stride. Hilbrand beat her defender and flipped a shot over the Wisconsin-Milwaukee goalkeeper to give the Illini the only goal they would need.

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“We’ve been working on that all week,” Hilbrand said. ” … I struggled with it in practice but just remembered it and it felt really great. I just ran to Chichi (after I scored) because it was all her ball through that really got me in.”

The Illini got a scare 10 minutes into the game when the team’s top offensive player, Ella Masar, took a bad fall. Masar collided with an opponent and awkwardly tumbled to the ground. Trainers had to come onto the field and help her up, but after several minutes, she was able to walk off on her own power. X-rays taken of her ankle immediately after she was off the field were negative, but Masar remained out for the rest of the game. If she had it her way, she might have been back in there.

“It was a little of an awakening really, but I’m all right,” Masar said. “I wanted to get back today but Janet was like, ‘Take your time.'”

Masar said the injury was “all just part of the game” and she and the team are ready to begin the regular season.

“We weren’t counting these really as real games,” Masar said. “We came out just to practice. We tried so many different things today and we go in there now with a starting 11 and to prove ourselves I think were ready.”