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 to conclude 5-game road trip with Braggin’ Rights showdown against Missouri

Midfielder+Sydney+Stephens+keeps+the+ball+away+from+Mizzou+on+Sept.+9%2C+2022.+The+Illini+will+play+Missouri+on+Thursday.
The Daily Illini Photo File
Midfielder Sydney Stephens keeps the ball away from Mizzou on Sept. 9, 2022. The Illini will play Missouri on Thursday.

It’s Braggin’ Rights time for Illinois soccer, who travels to play the Missouri Tigers on Thursday night in search of their fourth win in 2023. Illinois is coming off its first defeat of the season after a tight loss against Kentucky and will be relishing the chance to right the ship in Columbia.

The Illini started the year off strong, recording three wins and a draw in their opening four matches for the best start to a season since 2015.

“I think this squad back in January started really looking at themselves and saying what is it that we want,” said head coach Janet Rayfield. “But also who do we need to be to go after that. I think their commitment to be disciplined, trusting each other and fighting every day at practice and in games has really set them up to be successful.”

Missouri will close out Illinois’ five-game road trip, with the Illini last playing at home in Champaign on Aug. 17. The squad has had to pace themselves but is prepared for a fiery game against the program’s Braggin’ Rights rivals to close out the long stretch of away matches.

“We’ve gotta do one more on the road so we’ve really gotta focus on that,” Rayfield said. “It’s a war to war and you know you’re always going to get the best from a Missouri-Illinois matchup. They’ve had a goalkeeper that’s been out, but she’s back in the mix and I think we’re gonna see a strong side on Thursday night.”

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    The Illini have a chance to level the playing field on a historic level against the Tigers in Columbia. Missouri leads the all-time series against the visitors 6-5-2, meaning an Illinois victory would bring both programs back to a standstill. In the two teams’ last encounter, it was Rayfield’s squad who emerged victorious with a 1-0 result from Demirjian Park on September 8, 2022.

    The Illini have had a strong start to the season and have to put the loss to the Wildcats behind them. Missouri holds a 2-1-2 record compared to Illinois’ 3-1-1 record, meaning the Illini certainly have a chance to earn a positive result if they continue to maintain focus from start to finish.

    “Going into the Kentucky game I think we let (the focus) slide a little bit,” Rayfield said. “And started thinking about the outcome instead of really focusing on being who we want to be. If we are that, if we play that way, if we play brave and bold and we play with love and joy, then good things have happened. We just need to get back to really focusing on those things. This team came up with a big five criteria for who they want to be. They’re really focusing on that and that’s giving us a platform to be successful.”

    Illinois kicks off against Missouri on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT. The Illini will be looking to rebound in Columbia before making their return to the pitch Champaign.

     

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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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