Illini soccer needs 3 more shutouts for record

Despite leaving Wisconsin with only a tie, the Illinois soccer team inched closer to one other season-long goal. Sunday’s 0-0 draw gives the Illini eight shutouts on the season, only three away from tying the record number of 11 set in 2007.

Sunday’s game also marks the first time in three games that Illinois has held its opponent scoreless, and Wisconsin became the first Big Ten opponent the Illini have held without a goal. After starting the season with six shutouts in its first eight games, Illinois suffered a stretch of three straight games in which it conceded a goal. Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said last week that the team had spent more time focusing on offense but that improving defensively would be key to future success.

“You see the Big Ten teams at the top are those that are pretty stingy defensively, and I consider ourselves one of those,” she said. Illinois goalkeeper Alex Kapicka was in net for all 110 minutes of Sunday’s double overtime match, running her season shutout total to four. Kapicka and backup goalkeeper Steph Panozzo split time for the Illini’s first four shutouts of the year.

Wisconsin’s defense clamps Illinois offense

While the Illinois defense seemingly righted the ship against Wisconsin, the offense was shut down. The Illini managed only seven shots during regulation and overtime, putting only two of those on goal. Rayfield gave Wisconsin credit for clamping down on the Illini attack.

“Neither team got a lot of opportunities and I think that’s the kind of game Wisconsin wanted it to be,” she said.

Wisconsin goalkeeper Michele Dalton, who recorded her eighth straight shutout, led the Badger’s stingy defense. As a team, Wisconsin has not conceded a goal in nine straight games and 902 minutes, a new school record.

Sunday’s match was only the second game all season in which Illinois failed to score. Prior to the game, the Illini led the Big Ten in average goals per game, but have since dropped to a second-place tie with Ohio State.

Wisconsin is last in the Big Ten in the category, averaging .69 goals per game, but its defense has propelled it to second place in the conference.

Illini defender goes down

Illinois defender Kassidy Brown injured her knee during the second half of Sunday’s game against Wisconsin. The freshman outside back was challenging an attacking Wisconsin player when she twisted her knee into an awkward position.

Brown, who has started 11 of the team’s 12 matches this season, left the game and did not return. She was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the nature of the injury.

Redshirt-freshman Christina Farrell filled in for the injured Brown, playing 55 minutes in the second half and overtime of Illinois’ 0-0 tie.

Hilbrands recovering

Senior forward Jordan Hilbrands continues to recover from a fractured fibula she suffered in practice close to a month ago. The walking boot was removed from her leg last week and further X-rays will be conducted next week to monitor the healing process.

Rayfield said she did not expect to see Hilbrands before Illinois’ game at Michigan St. on Oct. 29 unless Hilbrands’ leg was healing at an exceptional rate.