Illinois faces Ohio State in rematch of 2011 Big Ten quarterfinal

This weekend, the Illinois soccer team will have two conference opponents challenging its undefeated home record of 3-0-0. The Illini will face Ohio State and Penn State: two teams which defeated them last year.

Head coach Janet Rayfield said last year’s outcomes do not play into the mentality for this season.

“The thing about college soccer is that one season doesn’t really play into the next,” she said. “This is a different team with a lot of freshmen in it, we are playing a different formation, it’s a different team that’s coming here to play. We’ve got to step out and play this Ohio State team and play for this season and play the kind of soccer that this team can play.”

The Illini opened up the Big Ten season with a “2-1 victory “: Iowa last Sunday, which marked the first game this year for Rayfield and junior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo after returning from the under-20 Women’s World Cup.

Although there hasn’t been much physicality in nonconference games, the Big Ten is known to be physical. In the game against the Hawkeyes, the Illini tallied 13 fouls, including a yellow card, which was given to junior Christina Farrell. Iowa also recorded nine fouls, one of which was inside of its penalty box that allowed for an Illinois goal opportunity.

The Illini have been preparing for the physicality the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions will bring this weekend.

“Yesterday, in practice especially, we were making sure that we were really tight man-to-man,” redshirt freshman Allina Weykamp said. “We were making sure we put extra pressure on each other so we’re getting used to it so it’s not a surprise when it comes down to Friday and Sunday’s games.”

Both Ohio State and Penn State also came out victorious in Big Ten openers.

The Buckeyes have recorded six consecutive wins — five of which were shutouts. And the Nittany Lions have six wins this season and multiple multi-goal victories, with their highest margin being 5-0 against Central Michigan. It will be important for Illinois to come out with energy and score early.

Senior Nicole Denenberg said the team is working on other parts of the game to “aid the offense”:

“We know it’s going to be two physical games this weekend,” she said. “We’re really battling and competing with each other in practice, working on changing the plan of attack and really looking to get in behind.”

Illinois suffered a hard fought 1-0 loss to Penn State last year but defeated the Nittany Lions to win the “Big Ten Tournament”: DiBernardo scored the winning goal in overtime, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. In the Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll, Penn State was ranked No. 1, Illinois second and Ohio State third. But there is no doubt that both teams will arrive at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium ready for a battle.

“I think it speaks for itself,” Weykamp said. “They’ve beat us, we’ve beat them, and we are both wanting to get another win. We’re both way too excited to not want to win this game.”

_Gina can be reached at [email protected] and @meuelle30._