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 faces huge test against No. 19 Michigan, hunts for 1st conference win

Senior+goalkeeper+Julia+Cili+blocks+the+ball.+Cili+has+recorded+a+staggering+45+saves.
Eric Chiang
Senior goalkeeper Julia Cili blocks the ball. Cili has recorded a staggering 45 saves.

After returning home on Thursday to a narrow loss against Indiana, Illinois soccer are hungry to jump back in the win column as it prepares to take the pitch against No. 19 Michigan on Sunday. The Wolverines will be difficult to earn a result against, but the Illini possess home field advantage at Demirjian Park.

“This Big Ten, from one to however many teams we have right now, is gonna be a dog fight,” said head coach Janet Rayfield. “I don’t think it matters who’s won games and who’s lost games, every game is going to be a fight. Our team needs to know that when the whistle blows and the lights come on, it’s game on and I’m sure it will be on Sunday with Michigan.”

Rayfield’s squad enters off a loss and a draw in their last two matches. The start of the 2023 Big Ten schedule hasn’t been easy for Illinois, with a 1-1 draw against undefeated Iowa and a 2-1 defeat to unbeaten Indiana serving as the team’s first two conference results.

Still searching for their first Big Ten triumph of the season, the Illini must now welcome a ranked Wolverines side to Champaign. Illinois has lost its last four encounters with Michigan, the most recent result being a 2-1 overtime loss back in 2021. Historically, the Illini trail in the all-time series against the Wolverines with a 9-18-1 record. The current Michigan squad has begun conference play strong, winning their opening two matches against Minnesota and No. 18 Northwestern by 1-0 and 2-0 score lines, respectively.

One of the highlights of Illinois’ squad has been the rise of junior midfielder Sydney Stephens. The Waterloo native has been one of the team’s most in-form attackers. With four goals in nine appearances so far, Stephens has played a crucial role in finding the difficult goals for Illinois in 2023.

    Subscribe to our sports newsletter!

    On the other end of the pitch, senior goalkeeper Julia Cili has stood out for the Illini. In eight appearances so far, Cili has recorded a staggering 45 saves. She recorded a season-high nine saves in back-to-back matches against Pepperdine and Iowa, and most recently the senior made six stops against Indiana on Thursday. Both Stephens’ and Cili’s services have proven vital to helping the Illini earn results this season, and they’ll be crucial if the squad hopes to win points against the Wolverines next.

    Illinois (4-3-2 overall, 0-1-1 conference) kicks off against No. 19 Michigan (6-1-2 overall, 2-0-0 conference) at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Champaign. The Illini have a chance to turn things around with an upset over the Wolverines and hand the visitors their first Big Ten defeat of 2023.

     

    @james_kim15

    [email protected]

    More to Discover
    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!
    ILLordle: Play now