Illinois soccer endures rain to beat Indiana State, record fourth win of season

Junior+forward+Makala+Woods+dribbles+the+ball+past+an+Indiana+State+opponent+on+Sunday.+The+Illini+won+3-2.+

Sydney Laput

Junior forward Makala Woods dribbles the ball past an Indiana State opponent on Sunday. The Illini won 3-2.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois soccer took down Indiana State on a rainy Sunday night at Demirjian Park, jumping back into the win column following a two-game losing streak. The Illini pulled out a narrow result over the Sycamores in a match plagued by heavy rain and a weather delay.

Illinois needed a victory following its struggles, not only for the team’s overall record but also for its morale.

“I think Brad Underwood says it best,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Winning is hard. I think anytime you can put one in the left hand column, you celebrate that and move on. Especially after two games where, particularly against Texas A&M, we battled in the second half and just didn’t get the result. It was really important to come out with a result tonight.”

Similar to in previous home matches this season, Illinois started off hot. The Illini brought the pressure early, maintaining control of the ball and enjoying several opportunities on goal.

The Sycamores struggled with the intensity during the first 15 minutes, with junior forward Julia Eichenbaum dazzling their backline and creating two clear cut chances in the span of 30 seconds. Eichenbaum launched a long range shot that sailed just over the goal, before regaining possession and firing a low shot that was nearly fumbled in by the Indiana State goalkeeper.

It was perhaps a sign of things to come, with the Illini opening up the scoring in the 25th minute. A well-placed through ball by sophomore midfielder Sydney Stephens put freshman forward Sarah Foley through on goal. Foley made no mistake, slotting the ball past the keeper and into the bottom right corner for both the opening goal and Foley’s second of the season. Illinois 1-0 Indiana State.

While Demirjian Park experienced a light drizzle throughout the match, particularly dark clouds brought a downpour that caused a weather delay shortly after Foley’s strike. The delay lasted for roughly an hour and took quite a noticeable toll on the field conditions, although not to the point of cancellation.

“I just think it’s disruptive,” Rayfield said of the weather delay. “But both teams have to deal with it. It was hard tonight to get in a rhythm, to get really into the game. We were just getting into it, obviously scoring a goal at the 20 minute mark and then having to kind of restart yourself, play 25 minutes and then restart again, it certainly made it difficult.”

As both sides came back out to finish the half, the amount of water on the pitch made the ball somewhat unpredictable. After some adjustments, the Illini nearly added a second goal after senior midfielder Eileen Murphy missed just wide following a cross into the box by sophomore midfielder Ella Karolak. Illinois maintained the one-goal advantage heading into halftime.

In spite of the fairly one-sided first half, Indiana State came out of the break with much higher energy. Within the first few minutes, the Sycamores had a penalty claim that went uncalled as well as a curling effort that beat junior goalkeeper Julia Cili, only to end up flying just wide of the mark.

In the 53rd minute, the Illini attack struck again. Redshirt senior defender Kendra Pasquale dribbled into space and fired a rocket from distance that beat the keeper, sailing into the right corner. The long range strike was also Pasquale’s second goal of the season. Illinois 2-0 Indiana State.

The Illini weren’t backing down and had another great opportunity a few minutes later. A great ball by Karolak split the Sycamore backline, finding the feet of junior forward Makala Woods, whose shot was blocked by the goalkeeper.

In the 68th minute, Indiana State rifled a powerful strike on goal, but Cili managed a spectacular save to deflect the ball over the net.

The final 10 minutes of the match would bring a dramatic finish to the night, starting with an 80th-minute penalty kick for Indiana State. The Sycamores would earn a penalty following a late tackle by freshman defender Ellen Persson. The opportunity was converted with a low shot into the bottom right corner that beat Cili. Illinois 2-1 Indiana State.

Not even a full minute later, the Illini were celebrating their third goal of the match. A quick attack saw Foley whip a cross into the box, only to be turned in by a Sycamore defender. The Indiana State own-goal quickly restored Illinois’ two-goal advantage, though not for very long. Illinois 3-1 Indiana State.

In the 86th minute, the Sycamores headed in a second goal after a great delivery into the box. Despite the late scare, however, the Illini managed to hang on to the lead and prevent a comeback for the visitors. Final score: Illinois 3, Indiana State 2.

It was quite a night for the Illini in a match that had it all. The wet and rainy conditions put the team to the test, and challenged Illinois’ signature playstyle.

“As a team we definitely like to be more of that possession-type base,” Foley said. “But when (the ball) stops right when you pass it in the middle, that kind of affects play. You have to adjust, playing it long or playing it out wide. I think we adjusted well on that.”

Foley’s collegiate career is off to a great start, with the freshman forward recording two goals in four games. Foley’s talents have been a major boost for the Illini offensively, and the forward is adjusting well to the program, finding that ‘everyone is so welcoming and they just made it a really good environment to join.’

Illinois (4-2-0) will be back in action at Demirjian Park on Thursday, where it prepares to welcome Mizzou (3-2-1).

 

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