Illini soccer’s endurance tested in third double overtime game of season

By Matt Gertsmeier

The Illinois soccer team (8-2-2) has played a lot of extra unscheduled minutes as of late.

Friday’s 1-1 tie with Ohio State marked the third double-overtime game Illinois has played this season. The team has already tied the amount of double-overtime games it played last year and there are six games left in the regular season.

Despite the extra workload Illinois has to deal with, head coach Janet Rayfield believes the team is keeping up with the additional playing time.

“I think it’s holding up really well,” Rayfield said. “We’re still running, we’re still making runs, we’re recovering defensively, and we’re still doing the things that we need to do at the end of 110 minutes and to me that says that at an endurance perspective we can last 110 minutes.”

Even though Illinois has been able to last in overtime play, it has only finished victorious in one of the three double overtime games.

Illinois defeated Maryland on Sept. 27, but tied with Indiana on Sept. 18 and tied with Ohio State on Friday.

Rayfield would like to see Illinois improve their quality of minutes played in future overtime matches.

“I think the quality in that 110 minutes can still improve,” Rayfield said. “As you get more game fit, you hope that quality goes from the start to the finish. I thought tonight it wasn’t a let down of endurance, it was just from the start to the finish, couldn’t find the quality that we needed to find. “

Friday’s conditions difficult for Illinois

Unless Illinois had several industrial-sized fans readily available at practice last week, there wasn’t much the team could do to prepare for Friday’s windy conditions. The wind speed was roughly 17 miles per hour at the opening kickoff and decreased to around 15 mph by the end of the game.

Despite not being able to control the weather during practice, Illinois made the best attempt it could to simulate Friday’s forecasted weather.

Rayfield said during practice coaches would play unpredictable balls that the players would have to adjust to. It was a way to challenge the team for Friday’s game, but not the most ideal method.

“We knew it was coming, we knew it was going to be windy tonight,” goalkeeper Claire Wheatley said. “I don’t know if you can really prepare for the wind. It’s a game time thing. The wind could have changed at halftime and we would have had to adjust.”

By Friday night’s opening kick at 6 p.m., Champaign was experiencing some harsh weather conditions. The temperature was 62 degrees and the 17 mph wind speeds made it feel even colder. By the end of the game the temperature dropped to about 56 degrees.

While the weather also might have made a few players uncomfortable, it wasn’t enough to affect Wheatley. After Friday’s game, Wheatley reminisced about the time she lost a chunk of her finger in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“I got frostbite and lost a bit of my finger,” Wheatley said. “I got off at halftime and I looked at it and there was a chunk missing and it wasn’t bleeding. It was just frozen.”

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