Illini face fifth consecutive loss against Wolverines


Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Jaelyn Cunningham (30) kicks the ball at Demirjian Park on Friday. Illinois faced their fifth-consecutive loss this season against Michigan on Friday followed by a win against Michigan State on Sunday.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

The Illinois soccer team lost to Michigan, 4-1, Friday at Demirjian Park. The loss is the Illini’s fifth consecutive.

Illinois (7-6-0) last played Michigan (10-3-1) in 2017, with the Illini leaving Ann Arbor with a 3-0 loss.

In Champaign, the game was very different. The first half was relatively quiet for the first 25 minutes. At 24:10, Michigan midfielder Raleigh Loughman scored her fifth goal of the season, and her first goal of the night.

Soon after, the Illini put the ball in the net but it was waved off due to offsides, keeping the Wolverines ahead, 1-0.

The rest of the first half was quiet scoring-wise, while Michigan midfielder Nicki Hernandez acquired a yellow card at 31:15.

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Illinois had more fouls, though, in the first half, with six versus Michigan’s four.

In the second half, the status quo of the game prevailed for the majority of the half. Michigan held on to their 1-0 lead, but the scoring pattern of the first period came back.

At 64:08, Michigan forward Danielle Wolfe put one in the back of the net for the Wolverines to gain a 2-1 edge.

The closing minutes of the game was where the majority of goals happened. At 83:43, Loughman scored her second goal of the night, giving Michigan a 3-0 edge.

Unlike the last meeting, Illinois was not about to go scoreless. Senior forward Kelly Maday put the ball in the back of the net at 84:07 to cut Michigan’s lead to 3-1.

“It’s always a good motivation moment once we score,” redshirt freshman defender Kendra Pasquale said. “We didn’t get the result that we wanted tonight but a goal is always good.”

Even though the game was closing out, the scoring was not. Wolfe scored her second goal of the night at 87:50 to give Michigan the 4-1 win.

“Really disappointed in the results,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “I thought our effort in the first half and our energy in the first half was what we want, but I said after the game, when we get it right, it looks good, but when we get it wrong, you know, we really open ourselves up for a good team like Michigan to take advantage of those opportunities. And I think that was kind of what happened tonight. We didn’t defend collectively, consistently, and they capitalized on those chances that we did give them.”

The Illini had a fast turnaround time from the Michigan game to Sunday’s matchup against Michigan State. Sunday’s game tipped off about 40 hours after the conclusion of the Michigan game.

Illinois (8-6-0) defeated the Spartans (8-6-1), 1-0, last season in Champaign.

Sunday’s result was superficially similar, a 2-1 Illini win in double overtime, but the game itself was a back-and-forth joust.

The two teams were fairly evenly matched, Illinois entering the game with a 7-6 record, and Michigan State coming in with a 8-5 record.

Sunday’s game started off similarly to the game Friday. Michigan State got off to a fast start, scoring within the first six minutes of the game.

Michigan State forward Lydia Franks scored at 5:58 to give Michigan State a 1-0 edge.

Illinois’ offense was more active as the half progressed. The Illini finished the half with three shots on goal, and the Spartans finished with two.

The second half got off to a fast and opposite start. Sophomore forward Makena Silber tied the game at 50:53.

“Our team came back out, ready to fight,” Silber said. “Our thing was, ‘if we can get one, then I think it’ll just keep coming.’”

The rest of the half was quiet, scoring-wise, but the Illini finished with three shots on goal. Michigan State finished the half with one shot on goal.

At 62:15, senior defender Alicia Barker got the first yellow card of the day. Michigan State midfielder Gabriala Jodzis also got a yellow card at 79:44.

For the first time this season, the Illini headed to overtime. In overtime, scoring is sudden death, and the Illini had some near-misses.

After 10 minutes of overtime, the Illini and Spartans were still tied, forcing a second overtime of 10 minutes. If neither team scored after the second overtime, the game ends in a tie.

At 103:22, Michigan State got another yellow card. Illinois missed the penalty kick. Immediately after, Illinois got another penalty kick thanks to a Michigan State foul.

Junior midfielder Hope Breslin got sent to the line. She lined up, kicked it down the middle and the ball found the back of the net.

“We needed to get that momentum back,” Breslin said. “I decided to step up, take that penalty kick, put one away for the team.”

After 103 minutes of a back-and-forth game, the Illini snapped their losing streak. Rayfield thought the team improved, particularly in the second half.

“That was just a war,” Rayfield said. “You win some battles, lose some battles. And I think in the end, you know, we created enough chances and found a way to win that game. And that’s what we’ve been wanting is that fight together, and just the determination to find a way to win.”

With the win, the Illini snapped a long losing streak. While the superstitious might have decided to change things up, Breslin and Silber said they didn’t change anything before the game, but Breslin found a sign in the closing minutes.

“Before overtime, I looked down, (and) there was a ladybug on my cleat,” Breslin said.

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