Illini soccer plan to stay undefeated against USC at Youth Soccer Night

Looking to stay undefeated, the Illinois soccer team returns home, where it will be greeted by some young supporters. Friday night is the annual “Youth Soccer Night,” where children in eighth grade and under are given the opportunity to participate in many activities as well as watch the Illini (4-0-0) take on USC (1-3-0). Having the younger children of the community watch the players may give the Illini a little extra motivation.

“I can remember when I was a young kid I always looked up to older players,” junior Niki Read said. “Now that I am older it is great to give back. We love having anyone here, so the fact that we can get young kids out here seeing what soccer is about is great.”

After being defeated by the Trojans last year during the NCAA tournament, the Orange and Blue are back with a vengeance. Claiming a 3-1 win against Illinois allowed USC to advance to the second round, ending Illinois’ 2010 season.

“I’m just thinking about revenge. I don’t care who scores the goals on our team, I just want to win,” junior Shayla Mutz said.

Although some bitter feelings reside with the Illini, head coach Janet Rayfield wants her team to be more focused on preparing for the competition USC will bring this year.

“There is always some emotion when you play someone who you have played recently that has taken something from you,” Rayfield said. “One of the things you learn about college soccer when you have been in it for a long time is no year is ever the same from one team to the next. This team isn’t about what happened last year; this team is about what they want to make happen this year.”

Although Illinois has a perfect record, the past weekend brought one of the team’s weaknesses to Rayfield’s eyes.

“One of the things we took from the Louisville game is that we need to do a little better against the counterattack,” Rayfield said. “We also really need to be able to handle when there are a lot of numbers behind the ball. Those are two things that the Louisville game exposed was great for us to have those things exposed and we are certainly trying to work on those and get better for the weekend.”

Illinois has been strong offensively this season. In four games, the Illini have already tallied 17 goals, but the players who have tallied these goals come from all over the roster.

“I think we have had 10 players that have put up numbers for us and that is a great statistic to have,” Read said. “Not only do we have girls scoring but we have a lot of girls getting assists, too, which is another huge thing. Even the girls that aren’t getting numbers on the board are still breaking teams down and making runs. We have so much offensive power this year.”