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

Illini soccer loses early lead, drops penultimate Big Ten match to No. 14 Spartans

Senior+Goal+Keeper%2C+%231+Julia+Cili+throws+the+ball+out+to+her+teammates+on+Oct.+12.%0AIllinois+will+attempt+for+a+win+against+Nebraska+this+Sunday+after+loss+from+Michigan+State.
Olivia McAfoos
Senior Goal Keeper, #1 Julia Cili throws the ball out to her teammates on Oct. 12. Illinois will attempt for a win against Nebraska this Sunday after loss from Michigan State.

Despite gaining momentum early in the match, a victory was not written in the stars for Illini soccer as the team traveled to East Lansing on Thursday night. By the final whistle, all three points belonged to No. 14 Michigan State and Illinois dropped down to 12th in the Big Ten standings.

Play in East Lansing kicked off to a defensive showcase as both the Illini and the Spartans struggled to create many substantial chances. However, Michigan State nearly broke the deadlock in the 10th minute from a corner kick. Illinois was beaten to the ball but senior midfielder Kennedy Berschel came to the rescue, heading the ball away with a goal-line clearance.

In the 32nd minute, the Spartans managed to break free on the right wing, dribbling to the Illini net before both senior goalkeeper Julia Cili and junior defender Ella Karolak rushed in to make the point-blank stop.

Six minutes later in the 38th minute, the Illini struck first. Junior forward Abby Lynch sent a low cross into the Spartans box, eventually finding senior forward Zoey Kollhoff. The St. Charles native struck a first-time shot into the back of the net following a deflection. With her first collegiate goal now in the books, an ecstatic Kollhoff became the team’s ninth goal scorer of the 2023 season.

However, the Illini’s celebrations were cut short as under a minute later, the Spartans equalized on a penalty kick. Despite guessing right, Cili was beaten as the shot was slotted into the bottom left corner. Both teams headed into halftime level at one apiece.

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    Coming out of the break, Michigan State began pressing higher up the pitch in search of a second goal. The hosts nearly found it in the 58th minute after a rocket of a shot was fired at Illinois’ goal, forcing a spectacular diving save from Cili.

    However, a minute later the Spartans set up a nearly identical shot that managed to beat Cili. A well placed attempt from the hosts in the 59th minute buried itself into the top right corner to earn Michigan State’s first lead of the night.

    The visiting Illini continued to push for their own second goal but were unable to find it by the end of the full time whistle. Final score: Illinois 1, Michigan State 2.

    It was another case of losing hold of an early lead, but Illinois has until Sunday to refocus and rebound in order to conclude the regular season on a high note. Despite the loss, Cili was a bright spot for the squad and turned in another sharp performance for the Illini. Finishing the evening with seven total saves, the senior now tops the list for most saves made overall (82) in the Big Ten.

    Illinois (6-7-3 overall, 2-5-2 conference) will return to Champaign next to go to battle with No. 25 Nebraska (12-2-3 overall, 6-1-2 conference). Although it will be another difficult ranked Big Ten opponent for head coach Janet Rayfield’s program, it will be a prime opportunity to conclude the regular season on a high note. The match kicks off at noon on Sunday at the Illini’s home of Demirjian Park.

     

    @james_kim15

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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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