Illinois soccer prepares to face Illinois State, Indiana in exhibition doubleheader


Logan Hodson

Senior forward Makena Silber readies to kick the ball with a Grand Valley at her side attempting to block the kick on April 2. The Illini will be having a double match up on Saturday against Illinois State and Indiana.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois soccer will be continuing its spring home exhibition matches with a Saturday doubleheader against Illinois State at noon followed by a clash with Indiana at 3 p.m. The Illini will only have one remaining spring friendly after this weekend, a match against Saint Louis on April 30.

The last time out, Illinois defeated last season’s Division II National Champions in Grand Valley State by a dominant 3-0 victory. The Illini started off the match adjusting to the Lakers’ high pressure, but as they settled in it quickly became all Illini for the majority of the 90 minutes.

The first half saw the opening goal scored by senior forward Makena Silber, who after being put through on goal, dribbled past the Grand Valley State keeper to slot home the first of three for Illinois. Illinois put in a second after freshman midfielder Ella Karolak made a great interception and assisted sophomore Makala Woods, who fired the ball in from inside the box. The third and final goal of the match saw Grand Valley State’s keeper fumble the ball with sophomore forward Julia Eichenbaum finishing from close range.

Illinois will be looking for a similar performance on Saturday against Illinois State and Indiana. Illinois had no lack of chances against Grand Valley State, and also saw a strong performance from freshman goalkeeper Naomi Jackson.

Both the in-state rival Redbirds and Big Ten rival Hoosiers will provide the Illini with more important experience as they prepare for the 2022 regular season in the fall. Illinois cruised past Illinois State last season, winning 5-1 away in Normal, but lost to Indiana 2-1 away in Bloomington.

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The Illini will be looking for ways to manage next season without redshirt senior midfielder Hope Breslin, who was drafted by Angel City FC as the 28th overall pick in the third round of the NWSL Draft back in December. Breslin left Illinois as the program’s 11th all-time goalscorer, with 18 career goals and nine assists during her five years in Champaign. Breslin played in 76 total matches for Illinois, starting 72 of them. She also became the third Illini in program history to ever be drafted into the NWSL.

One potential solution to filling Breslin’s place will no doubt be veteran Silber, whose return came as a huge boost for Illinois. The Illini’s 10th all-time goalscorer announced back in February that she would be returning for another year in Champaign. Silber has scored 19 career goals, seven of which were game-winning goals, in 67 games, 64 of which she started. Not only will Silber be continuing to contribute to the goal-scoring department, but she’ll also be instrumental in continuing to lead Illinois with her years of experience going to battle wearing the orange and blue.

Illinois will be playing all of its spring exhibition matches at home in Demirjian Park. Saturday will be the next chance for Illini soccer fans to get their share of the action, as the team gets set to kick off against the Redbirds at noon, followed by a 3 p.m. fixture against the Hoosiers.



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