Soccer team to kick off Big Ten matches with longest road stretch in Illinois history

The Illinois soccer team will end its nonconference schedule and begin Big Ten action in a challenging road stretch of five games over the next three weeks.

“Yeah we’re pretty much on the road all September,” senior Marissa Mykines said. “But hopefully it will be a good test for us and it’ll be a good challenge for us to figure out how to manage our bodies on the road.”

These next five games will be the longest road stretch in Illinois history, including three conference games.

“I think it’s a challenge,” head coach Janet Rayfield said.

“One of the things about a challenge is you sort of issue them as that and don’t look at it as a reason to have a drop in performance or drop in expectations.”

Winning road games is very important to having success in conference play, and this stretch should provide good experience for the team early in the season.

“Obviously the Big Ten is not necessarily won at home, you definitely have to win road games, so it’ll be a good challenge and atmosphere for us I think,” Mykines said.

As this team eyes a second straight NCAA tournament appearance, the road stretch could help prepare for possible tournament road games.

“An NCAA tournament run could put you on the road for three weekends in a row,” Rayfield said. “So you got to be able to handle those kinds of things, got to be able to handle them psychologically and physically.”

Rayfield expects the team to take on this road stretch and succeed, but staying healthy will be key as they look to improve their 5-1 record.

“I think this team is ready to be challenged,” Rayfield said. “We just talked about food and nutrition and those things that are going to be important in terms of us being able to perform five games on the road.”

Illinois bounces back from 1st loss of season against USC

The Illini suffered their first loss of the season over the weekend to USC by a 3-1 score.

“I think the biggest thing was they made the game really frenetic,” Rayfield said. “A lot of energy and pressure on the ball, not necessarily with a lot of organization, but a lot of energy and we struggled to deal with the frenetic pace and actually grab ahold of the game.”

The Illini average 3.5 goals a game this season, but were held to just one — a season low — against the Trojans on Friday.

“We just missed out on the composure that we needed to have. They forced us to hurry and that ended up with us missing chances we needed to convert on,” Rayfield said.

Although Illinois was unable to grasp revenge for its NCAA tournament loss to the Trojans last season, the Illini responded two days later to defeat Colorado 3-2.