Illinois soccer prepares for Big Ten rivalry match against No. 8 Northwestern


Bradley Leeb / Illinois Athletics

Maeve Jones Illinois Fighting Illini Women’s Soccer vs. Purdue – 9/23/21

By James Kim, Assistant Sports Editor

Illinois soccer will take on its toughest opponent yet in No. 8 Northwestern on Sunday. The match will be in Champaign, and the Illini are hoping to cause a massive upset to get back in the Big Ten win column.

Illinois are coming off a 2-2 draw with Iowa, in what was an exciting return to Demirjian Park. The highlight of the match for the Illini was a spectacular 35-yard wonder goal from sophomore forward Maeve Jones, who has two goals so far this season. Looking ahead to the ranked Wildcats, the Illini are going to need another hard-fought performance to earn any points on Sunday.

“It’s another Big Ten game,” said head coach Janet Rayfield. “Especially this year, you could put ‘Big Ten opponent’ on the front of those jerseys and it’d be a fight. Northwestern’s had a great season to date, and we’re gonna prepare to compete against Northwestern the way we’ve prepared to compete against everybody, Big Ten or not. We have to be as ready as we can be, prepare as best as we can prepare and then compete as best as we can compete. That’s what we want to do on Sunday.”

History has favored the Illini in the all-time series against the Wildcats. With a 14-9-3 record against Northwestern, Illinois has done well in taking control of the in-state rivalry. This season, however, the Wildcats are coming to Champaign as one of the best teams in the nation.

With a 9-1-2 overall record and an undefeated 3-0-1 start to Big Ten play, Northwestern has earned its No. 8 ranking. With a ten-game unbeaten streak currently, the Wildcats have been on a tear, not suffering a loss since August 21 against Kansas. In its last match, Northwestern drew 1-1 with No. 10 Rutgers. Needless to say, Illinois will do well to earn even a single point against its neighbors to the north, and a victory would be a highlight of the season.

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Illinois (6-4-2 overall, 1-2-1 B1G) will be searching to cause one of the biggest upsets of the season against No. 8 Northwestern (9-1-2 overall, 3-0-1 B1G) at 1 p.m. at Demirjian Park on Sunday.

“We’re all super excited,” Jones said. “We’re gonna go in with a lot of energy, and it’s always a battle against them. Both teams from Illinois, we gotta come out and compete. It’s one game at a time. We have to focus on one game and then move on to the next and start preparing for that.”



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