Soccer looks to capitalize early as Big Ten play heats up

The No. 23 Illinois soccer team has scored 30 goals in nine games this season, but one thing haunts this offense: the first half.

The Illini have failed to score in the first half in five of their last six games.

“A lot of this week will be about getting our bodies back,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “But it will also be about establishing the mindset that we are going to step on the field with, so that were not coming from behind. We got to set ourselves up so that we step on the field fighting for momentum right from the beginning.”

The Illini came back from a 2-0 deficit at halftime against Iowa on Sunday, scoring two goals in the second half in the 2-2 draw.

“Like always, we are really good at coming back,” Shayla Mutz said. “Which isn’t always a good thing.”

The Illini have scored just eight of their 30 points in the first half. The team’s focus this week is to try and fix its slow starts as it prepares for two more Big Ten road games this weekend.

“I think our biggest thing is going to be coming out starting out the game with the same intensity that we played with in this second half,” Jenna Carosio said. “Penn State and Ohio State is probably the toughest weekend that we have, so it’ll be an important week of practice.

“We just got to make sure we keep the intensity up and keep that fighting mentality throughout the week.”

Although the offense has struggled in the first half, Mutz said the team will overcome the struggles soon.

“I mean right now that is kind of what we’re trying to figure out, so we’re not really sure right now,” she said. “It might have to do with just a mentality thing, which is good because that means it’s something we can fix. I’m confident that we’re going to fix it.”

*Illini test conditioning in overtime*

The Illini battled through the two-overtime draw against Iowa on Sunday, testing their conditioning in 20 minutes of extra play.

“The Big Ten season is always a matter of managing energy levels and managing the body,” Rayfield said.

Carosio was one of the few to play all 110 minutes of the game.

“I was pretty wired after we scored the first goal,” Carosio said. “I think adrenaline had taken over at that point so I was ready to go for overtime.”

The Illini have played two overtime games this season, the first against Louisville in another comeback game, defeating the Cardinals 2-1.

“We came into the season pretty fit as a team, so we’ve only built on that, and we got through overtime in the past so we had some experience with pushing through it,” Carosio said.

To stay fit from game to game, especially in high-intensity Big Ten play, the work put in practice during the week is very important.

“Janet was telling us before the game that every time you feel fatigued you know it’s because you have been working that whole week,” Mutz said. “It just kind of gives you that extra confidence that you were ready for it and you should be prepared for this moment.”