Illinois soccer fail to win at home for first time this season

By Matt Gertsmeier

Both teams had plenty of scoring chances, but for the majority of the match they struggled to fire off accurate passes in the scoring areas. Much of that inaccuracy seemed to have been due to the windy conditions.

Part of the Illini’s bread and butter this year has been their effective throw-ins and corner kicks. Friday’s gusty winds made it difficult for Illinois to use one of its biggest strengths.

The wind turned midfielder Nicole Breece’s signature flip throw-in, which is typically as sufficient as a corner kick, into a knuckleball-like floater. The same went for the team’s corner kicks – there was simply no accuracy and the power was lost in the wind.

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Head coach Janet Rayfield noticed the difference.

“The wind makes lots of things dangerous that wouldn’t normally be, and it takes away things that would normally be dangerous,” Rayfield said. “It’s a lot harder to control a ball that you’re trying to play in behind the back line, it’s a lot harder to judge punts, goal kicks and throw-ins.”

Despite the challenging weather conditions, the Illini managed to get on the board early when forward Jannelle Flaws executed a good pass to midfielder Allison Stucky who laced the Illini’s lone goal from approximately 25 yards out in the 18th minute.RB

Three minutes later, Ohio State answered off an ill-advised pass by Illinois in its defensive end of the field. The intercepted pass quickly led to a Buckeyes goal in transition.

“We weren’t really expecting to give up the ball there,” goalkeeper Claire Wheatley said. “I think our team did a good job recovering, (but) sometimes it’s not good enough. I think that was one of those situations we just have to mark it a little bit tighter and make sure those people can’t get those shots.”

Wheatley finished the game with seven saves.RB She said the defensive line played well when the wind was against them. The team that had the wind blowing in its favor was the one that were more aggressive on the attack.

Illinois simulated unpredictable and nonconventional services early in the week at practice to prepare for the anticipated conditions. Regardless, Rayfield expected her squad to be prepared.

“(For) the players who been here and are players from the Midwest, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “If you grew up playing youth soccer anywhere in this country, you’ve dealt with these conditions. We’ve just been really lucky and haven’t had to play in them for a while.”

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