Illinois soccer falls to No. 18 Texas A&M in first home loss of season

Forward+Ashley+Prell+hand+five+the+team+before+facing+off+against+Texas+A%26M+on+Thursday.+Despite+the+Illinis+efforts+to+hold+off+the+Texas+A%26M+they+were+unable+to+stop+them+from+securing+the+victory.

Sidney Malone

Forward Ashley Prell hand five the team before facing off against Texas A&M on Thursday. Despite the Illini’s efforts to hold off the Texas A&M they were unable to stop them from securing the victory.

By Conor Blount, Staff Writer

Illinois soccer fell to No. 18 Texas A&M at Demirjian Park on Thursday, marking its first home loss of the 2022 season. An early tap-in by Texas A&M forward MaKhiya McDonald in the 13th minute ended up being the deciding factor, as Illinois ended up losing 0-1.

While the Illini had their chances, it was the Aggie’s pace and physicality right out of the gate that gave them the early edge. Texas A&M moved to 4-0-1 on the season following its win over Illinois.

“You gotta keep the ball,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Every time you give them the ball right back, they get to play it in behind. Our giveaways in the first half really played into them being able to use that pace because we were stretched out.”

As the match kicked off, the two squads seemed evenly matched. The ball spent much of the time in the middle third of the pitch, never lingering too long at one end of the pitch.

At the 13-minute mark, a well-placed ball down the left half of the field set up a shot for Texas A&M forward Laney Carroll. Junior keeper Julia Cili was able to deflect the shot, but the ball landed right at the foot of MaKhiya McDonald, who was ready for the tap-in, putting the visitors up 1-0.

The Illini attempted to mount an opportunity of their own, but time and time again, the Aggies managed to cut off passes and outpace the Illini. Despite Texas A&M managing to get five more shots off, Illinois shut them out for the remainder of the half.

At halftime, Illinois found themselves trailing behind in shots, shots on goal and corner kicks but led in saves and fouls. Heading into the second half, the game was very much still up for grabs.

The Illini showed much more physicality coming out of the break, making some impressive defensive plays that caught the Aggies offside and forced an off-target shot. Illinois also made some pushes offensively, ending with junior defender Joanna Verzosa-Dolezal having Illinois’ first shot attempt of the game.

Illinois continued to keep Texas A&M at bay, catching them offside several times as well as forcing their shots off target.

In the 63rd minute, Illinois made a push into Texas A&M’s half, and junior forward Julia Eichenbaum got the ball just outside the left corner of the Aggie’s box. Eichenbaum fired a shot at the goal, which was saved by Texas A&M’s goalkeeper.

Tensions were high throughout the final stretch of the game, as a total of 13 fouls were committed in the second half alone. In the 72nd minute, a handball from senior midfielder Elieen Murphy that prevented a Texas A&M attack was punished with a yellow card.

Illinois continued to defend valiantly, creating many breakaway opportunities on the offensive end. However, they were ultimately unable to get any more shots off as the Aggies shut out the Illini to secure their fourth win of the season. Final score: Illinois 0, Texas A&M 1.

Despite the loss to Texas A&M, as things currently stand, Illinois will not play another ranked opponent for the rest of the regular season. Should this hold true, Illinois will have maintained an impressive 0.500 win percentage against ranked teams so far this season.

Illinois (3-2-0) will play Indiana State (0-3-1) this Sunday at Demirjian Park in the second of a five match homestand. The Illini will look to bounce back against the Sycamores and get back into the win column after their two game slide.

 

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