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 travels to Evanston for in-state clash vs. Northwestern

Caden Bargowski
The Illini walk the field during post-game after beating Michigan 3-2. The Illini play against Northwestern this coming Thursday.

Illinois soccer will be traveling to Northwestern on Thursday with some wind in its sails after picking up its first conference victory of the season. In search of their sixth overall win of 2023, the Illini are preparing for a Wildcats team that currently holds a 72.7% win percentage this year.

The squad showed their grit against No. 19 Michigan on Sunday, pulling off a 2-1 upset for their second ranked victory of the season. The Illini outdueled the Wolverines in a match that demonstrated the team’s ability to compete in the Big Ten, something they’ve struggled to do over the past few years.

“Now you have to show that kind of performance on a consistent basis,” said head coach Janet Rayfield following the win over Michigan. “We challenged them to do that in the second half. I think when a team’s behind they come out and do different things and we certainly battled that, but we’ve got to come back out on Thursday on the road now and play that exact same kind of soccer.”

Putting together two complete halves is easier said than done, and it’s something the Illini have strived to do. The momentum of Sunday will undoubtedly be fueling the squad as they travel to Evanston, but the trick will be maintaining focus against a Northwestern team that holds a 7-2-2 overall record. However, the Wildcats haven’t enjoyed the strongest start to Big Ten play, having won their conference opener against the Purdue Boilermakers before dropping their next two matches against the Wolverines and the Indiana Hoosiers.

The last meeting between Illinois and Northwestern took place last season in Champaign, where the then No. 8 ranked Wildcats dominated the Illini in a 4-0 drumming. The Illini will be looking for revenge against their in-state rivals, this time having to compete in front of a sea of purple.

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    One area of concern that Illinois will need to watch for is Northwestern’s attack. While the Wildcats are currently on a two-game losing streak, they’ve won games by pretty significant margins this season. Some of these results include a season opening 4-0 victory over Marquette, a 7-0 annihilation of Oakland and a 4-1 win over Weber State. The Wildcats know how to put the ball in the back of the net, but luckily for the visiting Illini know how to stop it.

    Senior goalkeeper Julia Cili has been one of the top performers for Illinois this season and showed it again against No. 19 Michigan on Sunday. Cili stopped four of the Wolverines’ five shots on target to help secure the win, continuing to prove her status as one of the top goalkeepers in the Big Ten.

    Illinois (5-3-2 overall, 1-1-1 conference) will kickoff in Evanston against Northwestern (7-2-2, 1-2-0 conference) at 7 p.m. CT on Thursday. With a first Big Ten win under their belts, the Illini will be traveling north looking to build a win streak.



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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!