Illini soccer looks to flex its muscles against Wright State

For the first home game of the season — against Wright State on Tuesday — Illinois soccer head coach Janet Rayfield wants her team to show its muscle to both those attending and those on the field.

Despite Illinois winning in its season opening game against Loyola-Chicago 2-0 on Friday, Rayfield was disappointed in her team’s level of physicality against the Ramblers.

“We lost the physical battle in terms of losing our ground,” Rayfield said. “We were physically knocked off the ball, which constantly disrupted our attack. We need to be physically stronger so that we can develop our attack in a way that we can be dangerous. If we’re always being disrupted it’s hard to use the mobility we have. It’s something we’ve looked at on film, trained for and talked about, so hopefully one of those things solves it.”

Tuesday’s matchup pits the Illini against the Raiders — a Horizon League team just like Loyola-Chicago. In Rayfield’s tenure as head coach for Illinois, she is 9-1-1 against Horizon League and Mid-American Conference opponents.

“They’re just another competent team that’s going to come in and try to make something happen,” Rayfield said. “They have a team similar to ours. We are worrying more about what we want to do than worry about them.”

Rayfield said she wants her team to use the multiple weapons on the offensive side of the ball to make smart plays and score from multiple areas of the field.

“We’re going to really try to use our mobility,” Rayfield said. “The players that we have can knock and move and be dynamic. We can be difficult to defend. We’ve had a few weapons in the past, but I don’t know if we’ve ever had the variety of weapons that we have and the ability for people to play at different places on the field where we can move them around and find areas where they have opportunities to get to goal.”

Because Tuesday’s competition is the first home game of the season, senior Jordan Hilbrands said that she wouldn’t mind being one of the players to score.

“Whenever you score or create goals, it makes you feel good and it helps the team,” the forward said. “My mom and sister are going to be there, so it would be great to score or assist, but I want to do that every game.”

Wright State finished the 2009 season with an 11-7-2 overall record in the Horizon League, finishing second in the conference. Returning for the Raiders are team-leading scorers Brittany Persaud and 2009 First Team All-League forward Bekah Bonny. Also returning is goalie and 2009 First Team All-League selection Meghan Hackerson.

Despite the competition, Hilbrands is hoping to build off each game and build off of the fans for the first home game.

“The team is still in the developmental stages of the season, but we’ve got a good base, and with each game we hope to see improvement,” Hilbrands said. “Hopefully a lot of people will be out there — parents, friends or whoever likes soccer will enjoy it.”