Soccer looks to carry success into the west coast

By Jon Joffe

After four games, the Illinois soccer team remains undefeated.

The Illini certainly have gained some momentum and are coming off a game in which redshirt senior Jannelle Flaws became the all-time leading scorer in Illinois history — earning her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.

A West-Coast trip is in store for the Illini this weekend — with matches against Washington on Friday and Portland on Sunday – and they hope their success travels with them.

“They’re a really positive team,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “When things are going well, they feed off of that positive energy, and that’s where we are right now.

They’ve really bonded together, they’re trying to stay positive no matter what has happened, and that has translated into the outcomes that they’ve desired.”

Washington sits at 2-1 on the season, while Portland sports a 1-1-2 record. The Illini are 4-0-0 for the first time since the 2008 season, and that season, they defeated Washington 3-0 in Champaign.

Illinois figures to be the favorite in both matches, and Rayfield has preached the need for consistency throughout the duration of matches.

Flaws netted three goals in the first twenty-five minutes of last Sunday’s victory against St. Louis, but the Illini were held scoreless for the rest of the match.

“In other games earlier in the year, we started slow and finished strong,” Rayfield said. “We flipped the table tonight.”

Rayfield told her team after Sunday that it is hard to maintain a high level of play once you take your foot off of the gas, which she thought happened around the 30th minute of her team’s game against St. Louis.

A lot of that play starts in the midfield, which junior Allison Stucky says must be the connecting line of the team.

The midfielders have been able to rely on Flaws to put home the passes that they’ve served her so far this season, but in 2014, defenses started to focus on Flaws midway through the season, and if that were to happen this year, Stucky said the midfielders need to maintain the group’s chemistry.

“This is the best that this group has been in my three years here,” Stucky said. “Janet (Rayfield) can always pick us up and always knows what to say at halftime, but we have to feed off of each other. Forwards need to keep communicating and making runs. We want to stay undefeated.”

For Illinois’ sake, the team hopes that Flaws keeps her foot on the pedal.

She already has seven goals in the first four games and is on pace to have her highest scoring season of her time at Illinois.

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