Illinois soccer shuts out undefeated Colorado College, Washington at home



By Lee Ann Sangalang

Many teams enjoy home field advantage. The Illinois soccer team expects it. The Illini capitalized on their advantage this weekend, shutting out two previously undefeated teams, Colorado College and Washington, at Illinois Soccer Stadium.

Illinois (6-3) knocked off Colorado College and Washington with 2-0 and 3-0 wins, respectively, extending its home win streak to 11. Ten of those games were shutouts.


photo DI multimedia


Illini beat Washington

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photo DI multimedia


Illini beat Colorado College

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“It’s just a mentality: when we’re home, we don’t lose and we don’t give up goals,” junior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka said, who had six saves on the weekend. “We defend our home turf with everything.”

After facing two difficult teams in Florida last weekend, and leaving 0-2, the Orange and Blue came home for the first time in three weeks and did not waste any time on its stomping grounds.

The Illini came out early Sunday against Washington (7-1), scoring at the four-minute mark when Emily Zurrer headed the ball into the goal off a corner kick by Courtney Bell. Later in the half, Jessica Levitt and ChiChi Nweke each tallied goals before the end of the first half, which gave Illinois a 3-0 lead it would never relinquish. Nweke assisted Levitt, and Cory Steigerwald and Jordan Hilbrands assisted Nweke.

“I think we came out ready to play. I think our ball movement and our movement off the ball (brought Washington to a point where) they were sort of chasing us,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “We started the game with the quick rhythm of play and it’s been something we’ve been trying to do, switching the ball from one side to the other. That’s picture book, (that’s) the way that we’re going to be the most effective play in soccer.”

Meanwhile, a mere three minutes into the matchup against Colorado College on Friday, a crossover from the right flank by Nweke deflected off Tiger goalkeeper Geneva Sills and into the goal, giving Illinois an early 1-0 lead.

“It caught me by surprise,” said senior midfielder Marti Desjarlais. “I think she was trying to cross it.”

Head coach Janet Rayfield acknowledged the difficulty of the play.

“The goalkeeper’s got to worry about the goal, and the players in the box, and Chichi hit that ball with some face,” Rayfield said. “(It may seem) the goalkeeper made a mistake, and maybe to some extent (she did), but that was a dangerous situation for a defensive team to be in and Chichi is dangerous and gets to the end line.”

The Tigers (6-1-1) had two chances to even the score with slightly over 10 minutes remaining in the second half. Back-to-back shots on goal by Colorado College’s Sydney Fetter hit the right post and cross bar within seconds of each other.

“I think my heart stopped, that was a little too scary for me,” senior defender Emily Zurrer said. “We definitely need to make sure we don’t have that happen in the Big Ten.”

Rayfield echoed her sentiments.

“It happened so fast, and I think at that moment in the game you think, ‘Oh wow, we’ve been there the last couple of games, we’ve hit the crossbar, the post and we’ve been unlucky’ and this time from that standpoint, luck was sort of on our side,” Rayfield said. “(But) you knew if you gave them opportunities, they were going to have the ability to create some chances.”

Shortly after, Illinois put the final seal on the game, as Desjarlais tallied her second goal on the season with an assist from Laura Knutson.

However, after two games with the home field advantage, the Illini will gear up for a weekend away against back-to-back Big Ten matchups on Friday and Sunday against Wisconsin and Northwestern. Rayfield acknowledges this weekend, especially the match against Washington, as a big step towards the rest of the season.

“Coming back home and beating two undefeated opponents, getting two shutouts, scoring three goals on a team that had only given up three goals all year long; To score three on them in 45 minutes, I think it means we’ve corrected some things, and hopefully this team now is ready to go into the Big Ten season.”

Cody Westerlund contributed to this report.