Illinois loses to Penn State, ties Ohio State


Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Hope Breslin runs with the ball at University Park, Pennsylvania, Thursday. During the game against the Nittany Lions, Breslin scored her sixth goal of the season.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

The Illinois soccer team lost 2-1 Thursday to Penn State (10-6-1) at University Park, Pennsylvania. Illinois (8-7-0) defeated Ohio State Sunday.

The Nittany Lions ended the Illini’s season last year, defeating Illinois 1-0 in the 2018 Big Ten playoffs in Indianapolis.

Historically, Penn State has been a challenging matchup for the Illini, who have defeated the Nittany Lions only four times in program history.

The first period Thursday was similar to other matches the Illini have played in, with neither team scoring. Illinois had two shots on goal and seven shots total, while Penn State only managed to put one shot on goal and eight shots in the first period.

For the second consecutive game, the second period began on a high note for the Illini with a quick goal. Four minutes into the second half, junior midfielder Hope Breslin scored her sixth goal of the season to give the Illini a 1-0 edge. Breslin is tied with sophomore forward Makena Silber for the team leader in goals.

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After Breslin’s goal, the game took a different tone, with Penn State scoring the remainder of the goals.

In less than one minute, Penn State midfielder and forward Sam Coffey scored to tie the game.

Defender, midfielder and forward Kerry Abello scored at 67:27 to give Penn State the lead. Ultimately, there was no more scoring, and the Nittany Lions won 2-1.

In the second half, the statistics were different, as Penn State had more shots on goal than Illinois. The Illini had two shots on goal, and the Nittany Lions had three. The first half was the same ratio but the opposite set-up, with Illinois having twice as many shots on goal as Penn State.

The amount of shots, which was evenly matched in the first period, was a different story in the second half. Penn State had nine shots and held the Illini to four in the second period.

The Illini remained out of state over the weekend with their next game at Ohio State Sunday. The timing of the weekend gave them a turnaround time of about 65 hours.

Despite the short turnaround time, the team watched the men’s tennis team compete in Columbus and had a pumpkin carving contest Saturday.

Sunday, Illinois (8-7-1) went to Columbus to play Ohio State (4-8-4). The Illini last played the Buckeyes in 2018 in Champaign, a matchup the Illini lost 2-0.

Illinois had the same score and Ohio State had two less goals than the last matchup, as the game ended in a 0-0 tie after two overtime periods.

In the first half, Illinois had one shot on goal versus the Buckeyes’ two. The second half wasn’t much different — both teams had two shots on goal. Despite the lack of scoring, the game was very competitive, as Ohio State had a penalty kick opportunity at 32:10, which senior goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham saved to keep the game scoreless.

The game was back-and-forth with neither team scoring. At the end of the second period, the game was still tied at zero, and the Illini went to overtime for the second consecutive Sunday.

Similar to the Michigan State game, the Illini and Buckeyes were still tied at the end of the first overtime.

In the first overtime, neither team had a shot on goal, so the game ended up going to a second overtime.

Things picked up somewhat in the second overtime. At 101:50, Ohio State had a shot on goal, but Cunningham saved it. Sophomore forward Makena Silber had a shot on goal at 108:56, but Ohio State got the save.

Silber led all players in shots on goal at three, while freshman midfielder Eileen Murphy and freshman forward Summer Garrison each tallied a shot on goal.

Unlike the last overtime game the Illini played in, neither the Illini nor the Buckeyes scored in the second overtime. In the NCAA, the game ends in a tie after the second overtime, so the Illini move to 8-7-1 for the season.

Cunningham got her second shutout of the season; the first shutout was the Demirjian Park debut against Colorado College. Cunningham grew up in nearby Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and was able to meet up with her family after the game.

“I cannot explain how great it is to look up to the stands and see my whole family, my friends and former coaches,” Cunningham said via email. “I grew up in Columbus, and to play at this level has been a dream of mine, so to be on the other side of the fence is special for me. I’m just really grateful for the people who have supported this dream since I was a kid.”

Though the Illini went 0-1-1 over the course of the weekend, head coach Janet Rayfield thinks the team is ready to improve on their progress as the regular season wraps up.

“We fought in both games, and we fought together,” Rayfield said via email. “We did not get the results we wanted, and we can’t let that dampen our fight as we head into the last weekend of regular-season play. This team is capable of beating anyone on any given day, and we will fight together to the end.”

Illinois, who has been on the road more often than not this season, will conclude the regular season at home against Wisconsin Thursday and Minnesota on Sunday.

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