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 ends season with loss against No. 25 Nebraska

Sofia Klein
Forward Makala Woods tries to turn her defender just past midfield in the second half of the Illini soccer game against the Cornhuskers on Sunday. Woods scored one goal in her final home match for the Illini.

Illinois soccer welcomed No. 25 Nebraska to Demirjian Park for its final game of the season on Sunday. At the final whistle, it was the Cornhuskers who were celebrating victory and their fifth regular-season title in program history. The Cornhuskers now share the Big Ten championship title with Michigan State.

It started off as a hard-fought, end-to-end game between the two teams. In the eighth minute, the Illini launched a counter-attack through junior midfielder Sydney Stephens, who played an over-the-top through ball to senior forward Makala Woods, whose one-on-one shot against goalkeeper Sami Hauk went narrowly wide.

Four minutes later, a long ball by the Huskers caused miscommunication inside the Illini box which nearly led to the opening goal, but the ball was cleared off the line by junior defender Ella Karolak.

A few minutes later, the Illini proceeded to do what they did best: counterattacking the Huskers defense. Sophomore forward Sarah Foley won the ball in midfield and played a nice through ball into Woods, who fought off defender Nicola Hauk in the box, but her left-footed shot was tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper Hauk.

The Huskers fought back in the 15th minute. A through ball played to English-born forward Eleanor Dale on the left side of the box caused senior goalkeeper Julia Cili to come out and meet the left-footed, one-on-one effort, which she dealt with brilliantly.

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Nineteen minutes in, a volley from the edge of the box looked like it was heading into the bottom right corner of the Illini goal, but the effort was magnificently saved by Cili, who pushed the ball past the post.

Unfortunately for the Illini, the resulting corner led to the Huskers’ first goal of the game. A header from the cross by forward Abbey Schwarz looked to be cleared off the line by the Illini defense, but the effort was reviewed and the goal was given to the Huskers, now leading 1-0.

That goal was the catalyst for an Illini capitulation in the first half. In the 29th minute, a hopeful ball forward by Nebraska led to Dale nicking the ball off Karolak’s foot and fighting off her center-back partner, sophomore Ellen Persson, to put her through on goal, before slotting the ball past Cili into the bottom left corner of the net.

It went from bad to worse for the Illini five minutes later. A Huskers corner delivered by defender Lauryn Anglim flew straight over Cili’s head into the top left of the Illini goal, making it a three-goal deficit.

In the 40th minute, a throw-in led to another miscommunication in the Illinois defense, which resulted in an unchallenged finish by Sarah Weber into the bottom left corner of the net, making it 4-0 Nebraska.

In the second half, the Illini looked like the team we have seen all season, showing tons of fight to get back in the game. Five minutes after the restart, senior midfielder Joanna Verzosa-Dolezal gave the Illini fans a farewell gift with an excellent through ball into Woods, who rounded Hauk and placed the ball into the empty net, making it 4-1.

The Illini grabbed another goal one minute from time through sophomore midfielder Lia Howard. A great pass by senior midfielder Kennedy Berschel to Stephens in midfield led to her finding Howard inside the Husker box, who passed the ball past Hauk into the bottom left corner of the goal. Final score: Illinois 2, Nebraska 4.

This game marks the end of a disappointing Illinois season record-wise. However, head coach Janet Rayfield is happy with the overall performances of the team but says the Illini need to find a way to turn their losses into wins next year.

“We’ve got to be more clinical in the box, this game showed that,” Rayfield said. “You can be great from top of the box to top of the box, but you’ve got to be good in your defensive box and have goal-scoring ability. We’ve got to create that, recruit that and find that.

“We have to work on finishing the opportunities we get,” she elaborated. “The soccer we played until the penalty box was great, now we’ve got to be more clinical with our finishing, and that is something we’ll work on.”



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