Illinois soccer can’t win for its seniors

Nicole Breece performs a flip throw during Illinois’ 2-1 overtime victory against Maryland at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium on Thursday.

By Matt Gertsmeier

According to Janet RayfieldCC, every Illinois soccer team loss hurts, but Saturday might have been the most painful of the season.

On a night dedicated to honoring the legacy of the 2015 senior class, the Illini were shutout, losing 2-0 to NorthwesternCC. Jannelle Flaws, Nicole Breece, Aliina Weykamp and Anastasia Medellin were all honored for their contributions to the teamCC.

Rayfield said her team brought the energy and fight, but was unable to execute and get the win on senior night.

This year’s group of seniors was one of Rayfield’s most unique classes. Flaws is a sixth-year senior, Weykamp is a fifth-year senior and Breece and Medellin are true seniors. Rayfield said each senior has different qualities they bring to the team.

“They all bring something different to the table,” Rayfield said. “You’ve got Jannelle, one of the most competitive people. You’ve got Breece, probably one of the most team-orientated people. You’ve got Aliina, one of the most structured and organized. And Anastasia is probably one of the most proud of the program she has been able to be a part of.”

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Midfielder Reagan RobishawCC was supposed to be a member of this year’s senior class. However, an injury suffered early in the year ended her season. Rayfield said she expects her to have another season of eligibility.

Wednesday will decide Illinois’ postseason fate

Illinois’ final game of the regular season is this Wednesday against Minnesota. If Illinois doesn’t want it to be the last game of the year, a few things need to happen.

Ohio State and Michigan State are tied for seventh place with 14 points. The two teams play each other on Wednesday. Illinois is currently in eighth place with 12 points.

Illinois needs to win on Wednesday in order to have any chance of making the Big Ten tournament. If Illinois wins, it also needs the Ohio State-Michigan State game to result in anything but a tie.

If the Buckeyes and Spartans avoid a tie, the final standings would have either Ohio State or Michigan State in seventh place with 17 points and Illinois in eighth place with 15 points. The top eight teams in the conference qualify for the Big Ten tournament.

An Illinois loss or tie on Wednesday eliminates the Illini from a spot in the conference tournament.

If the Ohio State-Michigan State game ends in a tie and Illinois wins, there would be a three-way tie between Ohio State, Michigan State and Illinois with 15 points.

The tiebreaker for that scenario involves judging how the teams play against the teams seeded higher in the Big Ten. The team that the conference would compare would be Minnesota and Rutgers, which happens to be Illinois’ opponent in its final game.

The Spartans beat Minnesota, the Buckeyes dropped games to both, and if the Illini beat Minnesota, then they will have beaten both Minnesota and Rutgers.

Bottom line, if the Illini win, they’re in.

As a result, Rayfield just wants Illinois to focus on Minnesota this week.

“We’ve got to go to Minnesota on Wednesday, play the best we can, and execute the way we are capable of, get a result and hope that’s enough,” Rayfield said.

Scoring woes continue for Illinois

Saturday’s shutout was the second time it has happened to the Illini in the last three games. Illinois has only had two multi-goal games in its last seven games.

The Illini had opportunities to score, but were unable to convert. Illinois recorded 17 shots and had four corner kicks against Northwestern.

Illinois also had a penalty kick late in the second half. Flaws took the shot for the Illini, but Northwestern’s goaltender correctly predicted Flaws’ shot.

On the season Illinois is averaging 1.59 goals a game on the season, but 1.1 goals per game in its last 10 games.

Rayfield believes Illinois’ execution needs to improve.

“We’ve got to execute better,” Rayfield said. “We’ve got to be a little bit better on the ball and we’ve got to be a little bit better decision makers.”

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