Julia Eichenbaum lifts Illinois soccer over No. 17 Butler in dramatic upset


Sydney Laput

Junior forward Julia Eichenbaum runs onto the Demirjian Park field before the game against Wisconsin on Oct. 10. Eichenbaum scored the game winning goal against Butler on Thursday with the Illini winning 1-0.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois soccer upset No. 17 Butler in Indianapolis on Thursday for the team’s third straight victory this season. A late goal from junior forward Julia Eichenbaum decided the contest in the Illini’s biggest win so far.

“Tonight was a collective, hard-fought battle from start to finish,” head coach Janet Rayfield said via a press release. “Butler is a talented, well-coached team and they make it a hard place to win. We took a tremendous step forward tonight not just in the victory but in competing the way we did. I am so proud of this group.”

Illinois exceeded expectations with its performance, going head to head with a ranked Butler side that had beaten No. 9 Michigan 1-0 a few days prior. The Illini and the Bulldogs went back and forth in the first half, with junior goalkeeper Julia Cili pulling out several saves to keep the score level. Neither team was able to find the opening goal, and the score was level heading into halftime. Illinois 0-0 Butler.

The second half saw the Illini keep up the pressure, with Eichenbaum firing off a shot to the bottom left corner in the 60th that was saved by the Bulldogs. Sophomore forward Maeve Jones would shoot wide two minutes later. Illinois 0-0 Butler.

The Illini and the Bulldogs would continue to have chances on goal throughout the second half, with the game beginning to wind down. Already, a 0-0 result for Illinois wouldn’t have been a bad result at all. A draw with No. 17 Butler during the first road match of the season would have been more than acceptable. However, the Illini weren’t finished.

At the death, Jones managed to play a through ball to Eichenbaum, who outpaced Butler’s backline and slotted the ball past the goalkeeper for the 88th-minute game-winner, clinching the upset through Eichenbaum’s heroics. Final score: Illinois 1, Butler 0.

‘Clutch’ certainly appears to be a word in the Illini’s vocabulary this season as they begin to shine in 2022. Illinois had previously enjoyed another late goal in its season opener versus Illinois State, where redshirt junior forward Ashley Prell scored an 85th minute goal to seal off a similar 1-0 scoreline.

This time round, however, Eichenbaum’s last minute goal to take down No. 17 Butler comes with many implications as to where this team could go. While last season may have been the cause for many to doubt Illinois, the team have managed to silence the critics with an impressive 3-0 record so far. The Illini have, in these first three matches, managed to find the crucial goals that they couldn’t in 2021.

Thursday’s victory was also Illinois’ first win over a ranked opponent since the program took down No. 22 Pepperdine by a 3-2 scoreline in 2019. This statement victory cannot be overlooked, however being only three matches into the season, the real question will be how Illinois continue to achieve big results down the road. The Illini did something special in Indianapolis, but only time will tell whether or not they can remain consistent.

Illinois (3-0) will remain in the state of Indiana as it heads to South Bend for an away clash against Notre Dame on Sunday. The Fighting Irish just missed out in the recent rankings and will provide the Illini with another top opponent to go to battle with.

“Tomorrow we will continue the process,” Rayfield said. “Learning from this game, getting better and preparing to compete again.”



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