Women’s soccer unable to come back against Purdue, losing semifinal match

By Steve Contorno

A day after the Illinois women’s soccer pulled out its first come-from-behind victory of the season, the team fell far behind Purdue and could not recover.

The 3-0 loss is the Illini’s second to Purdue on the season and knocked Illinois out of the Big Ten Tournament. The Boilermakers went on to win the tournament.

“I think the problem was in the mentality we started with, we didn’t go for it right from the beginning,” head coach Janet Rayfield said in a press release. “We didn’t start the game with the sense, of ‘Let’s just go for this and see what we have left.’ I think we were afraid of what we did or didn’t have left.”

What the Illini (11-6-2) didn’t have in their semifinals match against the second-seeded Boilermakers (18-2-2) was leading scorer Ella Masar. The senior injured her hamstring in the previous game – a shootout victory against Minnesota – limiting the team’s offensive potential. Purdue took advantage of that and was able to take down the third-seeded Illini in the semifinals.

“(The Boilermakers) defended their box really well, but we didn’t put our shots on frame either,” Rayfield said. “We didn’t make them defend the goal. We got the ball inside the box and just couldn’t get a shot off.”

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Purdue got out to an early lead, scoring two goals in the first 15 minutes. The quick deficit put the Illini down, but they didn’t let up despite the odds being stacked against them. The Illini had scoring opportunities in the second half that proved the Illini wouldn’t go down without a fight.

“I think we responded well especially in the second half,” Rayfield said. “We never quit. … I thought for most of the second half Purdue was protecting their lead.”

With the Illini throwing everything at the Boilermakers on offense, Illinois’ defense was susceptible to attack but stayed strong, only giving up a meaningless goal in the final minutes.

Illinois will now wait until Monday night to find out when and where it will continue the postseason. The NCAA will announce its field at 7 p.m. Illinois avoided potential disaster by coming back to beat Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament opener and, thanks to several key victories throughout the season and a grueling schedule, should make the national tournament.

Rayfield said her team will have to take some steps this week to do well on the national stage.

“From a mentality standpoint this weekend was really good for us,” Rayfield said. “The effort was great this weekend, but there are times where if we could make that individual effort a collective effort, it will boost us that one step further that we need to make a run at the NCAAs.”