Illinois soccer ensures postseason play after split weekend

Illinois+forward+Kara+Marbury+%2820%29+is+congratulated+by+her+teammates+after+scoring+one+of+the+two+goals+to+win+against+Michigan+State+at+Illinois+Track+and+Soccer+Stadium+on+Friday.
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Illinois soccer ensures postseason play after split weekend

Illinois forward Kara Marbury (20) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring one of the two goals to win against Michigan State at Illinois Track and Soccer Stadium on Friday.

Illinois forward Kara Marbury (20) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring one of the two goals to win against Michigan State at Illinois Track and Soccer Stadium on Friday.

Illinois forward Kara Marbury (20) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring one of the two goals to win against Michigan State at Illinois Track and Soccer Stadium on Friday.

Illinois forward Kara Marbury (20) is congratulated by her teammates after scoring one of the two goals to win against Michigan State at Illinois Track and Soccer Stadium on Friday.

After splitting the weekend’s matches against Michigan State and Michigan, the Illinois soccer team has reason to be relieved. 

Illinois will be playing postseason soccer.

The Illini qualified for the Big Ten tournament following Sunday’s loss to Michigan. The playoff berth may not have been attained the way head coach Janet Rayfield would’ve liked, but it’s a playoff berth nonetheless.

Illinois had to rely on a Nebraska loss to Ohio State, ensuring that, despite losing to Michigan on Sunday, the Illini could not fall below eighth in the conference.

“I think I’d probably rather us win our way in but, I think we still have a chance to do that,” Rayfield said.  

It was a freshman cast that won Illinois the game under the lights Friday against Michigan State, with Kara Marbury and Emily Osoba scoring a goal each. Marbury’s goal came in the 25th minute of the first half, hitting her own rebound past Spartan keeper Courtney Clem. Osoba’s goal came with seven minutes to play, off of a volley attempt from Abby Elinksy.

“It is great to have Kara back,” Rayfield said, praising the freshman striker’s work ethic. “It takes a little bit of pressure off Jannelle, and gives us back someone who defenses have to pay attention to. She also keeps the ball for us, so our possession has been better.”

Rayfield’s team went into Sunday’s game against Michigan with higher hopes, having snapped a five-game winless streak that would ensure they would continue to be in the fight for a Big Ten tournament berth and potentially an NCAA Tournament berth.

However, with taller bodies like sophomores Casey Conine and Jenna Miller out of action, Illinois was vulnerable in set piece defending against Michigan, conceding two set piece goals.

After opening the scoring in the seventh minute, the Illini’s lead was short-lived. The Wolverines equalized on a corner kick.

Fifty-nine minutes into the game, Michigan would strike again. This time in the form of a free kick.

“We were just coming at them with different stuff and trying different things and the whole team was getting forward. We had a lot of numbers in the box and that was part of the reason we were getting so many shots,” Flaws said.

Flaws would come close on several occasions in the second half, smashing a free-kick just high off the crossbar and coming close again late, tapping the ball just wide left of the goal post. However, the whistle blew and the game would end 2-1 for Michigan.

“I feel bad for the team, because I feel like this is one that we played well enough, played= better than Michigan and did the things that we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win and gave up two restart goals that really we have to do a better job in those two moments and unfortunately soccer is like that,” Rayfield said. “I think, aside from restarts, from the goal line to the penalty box, (that was) probably one of the best games we’ve played.”

Illinois is now 10-7-1 with a 5-6-1 record in the conference, sitting at seventh in the Big Ten and will play Wisconsin on Friday.

Eliseo is a sophomore in FAA. He can be reached at [email protected]