Illinois to open preseason with exhibition match against Eastern Illinois


Ryan Ash

Illinois celebrates after scoring a goal against Iowa on Feb. 25 at Demirjian Park. The Illini opens their season with an exhibition game against Eastern Illinois on Sunday.

By Angelle Cortes, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois will begin its preparation for its season against Eastern Illinois on Sunday night in exhibition play. This is the first season back with a normal fall campaign after playing in the spring last season.

“It’s been exciting, it’s been refreshing, it’s been inspiring,” said head coach Janet Rayfield when talking about the first week of preseason. “These players and athletes were so resilient through it all. Seeing them back competing and playing and having the same passion, joy and energy that they had about the game, and you kind of see why and where that resilience came from, so it’s been a really enjoyable experience this first week.”

Though the scoreline won’t count toward the Illini’s overall record, it will still be a learning opportunity for the team. 

Last season was a shortened season with only conference matchups, so there wasn’t much leeway to switch around players to maximize everyone’s minutes on the field.  

“Oh, absolutely,” Rayfield said when asked about if players we didn’t see last season will be playing and getting some minutes. “We’ve got preseason exhibition games, so this Eastern Illinois game, our goal is to get everyone that’s healthy and on the roster an opportunity to compete.”  

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    Rayfield said the focus on the match against Eastern Illinois will be to focus on themselves and to continue to get better every day. As for the coaches, they’re going to be looking out for a lot of things in their players. 

    “It’s competence, competitiveness, the ability to cooperate and communicate,” Rayfield said. “We’re looking at all the pieces of the game and seeing which players have continued to evolve and to grow and where their game is and what role do they play when we put the pieces of the puzzles together.” 

    Looking at the opponent, Eastern Illinois finished last season with a record of 2-7-1 and tied ninth with Austin Peay State in the Ohio Valley Conference table. 

    The Panthers have retained Eva Munoz, second-team OVC midfielder Itxaso Aguero and Pilar Barrio to lead the team with experience. 

    Last time Illinois went up against Eastern Illinois was in 2002, which is the only time in the Rayfield era where they have gone up against each other. The match ended with Illinois coming out on top, 4-0. 

    Though Rayfield said the team is focusing on themselves and their performance, she said we can expect a young and hungry team that has high expectations for themselves. The match against Eastern Illinois will be on Sunday at 7 p.m. and will be played at Demirjian Park. As of now, there is no listed link for the broadcast, but live stats will be available here


    @Angelle Cortes 

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