Illinois soccer suffers heavy loss against Notre Dame for first defeat of season


Angel Saldivar

Junior goal keeper Julia Cili signals to teammates during the game against Illinois State on Aug. 18. The Illini fall to Notre Dame 4-0.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois soccer fell to Notre Dame in South Bend on Sunday for the team’s first loss of the 2022 season. The Illini, who spent the week in the state of Indiana, will be returning home with a 1-1 away record following a victory over No. 17 Butler and a loss to Notre Dame.

While Illinois had a few highlights from Sunday’s match, it was Notre Dame who played with a quicker pace and finished opportunities it had in front of the goal. The Fighting Irish are now 4-0 overall following their victory over the Illini.

“Today we lost to a very good Notre Dame team,” head coach Janet Rayfield said in a press release. “However, we are much better than we showed today. Lessons from today may be more painful than previous games but they will also be more impactful when we learn from them to get better.”

At the start of the match, Illinois managed to match the pace of its opponent and had a chance as senior forward Summer Garrison had her shot from the right side go wide left of the net. However, Notre Dame struck in the 32nd minute of the match to gain the momentum. The Fighting Irish managed to convert after a ball played in from the left wing was finished off in the box at close range, past junior goalkeeper Julia Cili. Notre Dame 1-0 Illinois.

In the 41st minute, junior forward Makala Woods managed to make it past the Fighting Irish backline only to nail her shot right at the goalkeeper. Not long after Notre Dame found its second goal of the night just before the break. A save by Cili fell back to the home side, who finished to add a cushion to what would become an ever-growing Fighting Irish lead. The score read Notre Dame 2-0 Illinois going into halftime.

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The Fighting Irish would come out of the break strong, scoring a third goal in the 46th minute another Cili save became a loose ball in the Illini’s box. Notre Dame 3-0 Illinois.

Cili refused to give up and pulled off another diving save in the 58th minute following a Notre Dame freekick that was nearly directed into the right corner. However, a minute later the Fighting Irish managed to lob the ball into the top right corner for the fourth goal of the game. Notre Dame 4-0 Illinois.

The Illini attempted to rally but nothing ever materialized. In the 61st minute sophomore forward Maeve Jones tried her luck from outside the box, hitting a shot from distance only to have it saved by the Notre Dame goalkeeper.

In the 72nd minute, a foul in the box by freshman defender Ellen Persson gave the Fighting Irish a penalty kick and the chance for a fifth. However, Cili would dive left and save the penalty for what was her 10th save up to this point in the match.

Cili would continue to make spectacular diving saves throughout the night, including a highlight stop in the 81st minute. However, the Fighting Irish would manage to shutout the Illini to secure their fourth win of the season. Final score: Illinois 0, Notre Dame 4.

While the Illini’s winning streak came to an end in South Bend, the team’s 1-1 start to life on the road is respectable after opening the season with two home matches. However, while taking on two high caliber teams in No. 17 Butler and Notre Dame in hostile territory is no easy feat, critics of this Illinois team will no doubt have questions regarding its collapse on Sunday.

Illinois (3-1-0) will be back in action on Thursday at Demirjian Park to take on Texas A&M (3-0-1). The Aggies also boast a strong side and like the Fighting Irish, only narrowly missed out on the recent top 25 rankings. The Illini will have to shake off Sunday’s defeat and refocus in order to claim victory later this week.

“Just like after Thursday’s win,” Rayfield said. “We focus on getting better and our next opponent.”



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