Illinois soccer travels to Maryland in search of first Big Ten win in 2022


Sidney Malone

Redshirt junior forward Ashley Prell dribbles the ball across the field during the game against Missouri on Sept. 9. Illinois will be up against Maryland on Thursday.

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Following a less than stellar start to the conference campaign, Illinois soccer will be traveling to College Park on Thursday to take on Maryland.

“We’re gonna get back to work,” said head coach Janet Rayfield following Sunday’s loss. “Whether we won this game or lost this game, we’d be trying to get better. We don’t have to just get better, we have to start focusing on performing better on game day. That’ll be a real focus for us this week, being ready to perform when the whistle blows on game day.”

The Illini fell 3-0 to the Spartans on Sunday at Demirjian Park after a collapse in the second half. A lack of composure and ability to hold out against Big Ten teams plagued Illinois’ play last year and could be seen again in the team’s conference opener last weekend. As Rayfield put it, the Illini “weren’t really physically and mentally prepared to play at the Big Ten level,” something that was evident against the Spartans.

Thursday’s match against Maryland will give Illinois a chance to prove that last Sunday’s performance was just a fluke. After all, leading up to the conference opener the Illini were doing well. The team had earned five wins in eight matches, taking down high-caliber opponents like No. 17 Butler in the process.

Illinois and Maryland currently share a 3-3-1 all-time record against each other. While the Illini claimed a 2-1 victory in the last matchup, they are 1-2-1 while playing at Maryland. In addition to breaking the deadlock in the series, Illinois could also earn its first Big Ten points of the season with a victory on Thursday night.

However, in order to get a result away in College Park the Illini will need to completely shake off their disastrous second-half showing against the Spartans and refocus. Maryland, while holding only a 2-1-5 record currently, is coming off a conference-opening victory over Michigan last Friday and will be well rested. Additionally, Thursday will see Illinois go on the road for the first time in the month of September.

The five-match homestand gave fans plenty of chances to see the team in Champaign, but now with the Illini off to play in hostile territory, the real test begins. With Big Ten matches already challenging as is, an away victory could be exactly what the team needs to right the ship.

Illinois (5-3-1 overall, 0-1 B1G) will be hoping to leave College Park with a win over Maryland (2-1-5 overall, 1-0 B1G) on Thursday night, with the game kicking off at 6 p.m.



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