The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Illinois soccer suffers first defeat of 2023 season in loss to Kentucky

The+Illini+stand+along+the+field+at+sunset+on+Sept.+9%2C+2022+during+a+game+against+Mizzou.+The+Illini+suffered+their+first+loss+this+season%2C+ending+their+win-streak+on+Sunday.
The Daily Illini Photo File
The Illini stand along the field at sunset on Sept. 9, 2022 during a game against Mizzou. The Illini suffered their first loss this season, ending their win-streak on Sunday.

After going unbeaten in its first four games to kick off the season, Illinois soccer lost its first match in 2023 on Sunday. The Illini fell to the Kentucky Wildcats in a tight contest that saw a strong start from the visitors prove to not be enough to earn a result from Lexington.

“We’ve been on the road for four straight games,” said head coach Janet Rayfield. “But I think it was maybe more of our mentality going into it just in terms of really setting the tone. We created some chances early, and I think the focus to put those away would’ve made a big difference in the game.”

The momentum of Illinois’ recent victory over Louisville was evident as the game kicked off. In the opening 15 minutes, the Illini fired off four solid chances with graduate forward Makena Silber, junior midfielder Sydney Stephens and sophomore forward Sarah Foley all testing the Wildcats’ keeper early.

However, Kentucky managed to keep the visitors off the scoreboard and killed Illinois’ offensive flow in the 27th minute. A low cross into the Illini’s box was met by Wildcats forward Jordyn Rhodes, who was able to get in front of junior defender Ella Karolak to slip the ball under the arm of senior goalkeeper Julia Cili. Illinois 0, Kentucky 1.

The opening goal put a stall in the Illini’s attack, with the number of chances plummeting in comparison to the opening 15 minutes. With one foot in the door, the Wildcats sent the Illini squad to the locker room behind on the scoreboard for the first time this season.

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    The second half of play was much quieter than the first. Illinois was nearly given a boost in the 51st minute as Stephens completed a big tackle on the left wing. The midfielder drove toward the Wildcat goal before cutting toward the middle, firing off a dangerous shot that was just saved at the far post.

    Cili’s services were called into action in the 69th minute to keep the deficit to one goal. Kentucky nearly slotted home a second goal before the senior goalkeeper pulled off an acrobatic dive to push the ball away, before quickly recovering for a second straight save to deflect the ball over the net.

    Despite Cili’s efforts, however, the Illini weren’t able to find a late equalizer and left Lexington with their first defeat of the season. Final score: Illinois 0, Kentucky 1.

    With a couple days to rest, the Illini have one last away fixture to close out their five-game road trip, a matchup against the Missouri Tigers. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. on Thursday night as Rayfield’s squad looks to turn it around in Columbia.

     

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    About the Contributor
    James Kim, Sports Editor
    My name is James Kim and I’m a senior studying English with a minor in business. This is my third year with The Daily Illini and it’s been an amazing ride so far. When I joined in fall 2021, I began as a staff writer for the sports section where I covered women’s tennis. In spring 2022, I became an assistant sports editor and started covering soccer and Illinois men’s basketball. From spring 2023 onwards I’ve been working as the sports editor! In addition to being an Illini and Real Madrid fanatic, I also love watching movies and TV shows. If you have any questions about writing for The DI, you can reach me at my email below. I-L-L!
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