Soccer takeaways from this past week

By Jonathan Joffe

If the Big Ten tournament started today, Illinois would be the last team to qualify. Head coach Janet Rayfield and her players are well aware of their place in the standings, but are doing their best to not look ahead.

“We’re going to take this one game at a time,” Rayfield said. “Certainly it’s nice to be in that top eight, but we just want to keep climbing, we just want to keep winning games and see where that puts us at the end.”

Rayfield told her players to control what they can and not worry about Minnesota yet, who the Illini face in two weeks to close out the regular season. She wants her team’s focus to be on Northwestern (11-4-2, 5-3-1 Big Ten), who will travel to Champaign to play Illinois on Saturday.

“We’re going to wipe this one clean and act like it’s another one game season,” Rayfield said.

Rayfield believes that individual game focus along with a communal sense on the field will make or break the Illini’s season.

“We just want to see this team playing together, and no one person is going to solve the problems,” Rayfield said. “No one person is the answer to any game.”

Change in attitude

Before Illinois’ victory against Nebraska on Sunday, the team had not won since Sept. 27 against Maryland.

While the lack of success could be attributed to numerous areas of play, junior midfielder Allison Stucky believes a bad mindset was the culprit.

“I think what we were missing in the past couple of games was just having fun,” Stucky said.” We were just so uptight, and (we) just thought it was a job and that we had to win.”

Between its Sept. 27 win and Sunday, Illinois tied and lost twice. The draws helped the Illini hang on to a spot in the standings that would secure them a Big Ten tournament berth.

Stucky said the win against the Cornhuskers is just the confidence boost the Illini need to keep momentum.

“I think we finally got momentum,” Stucky said. “We were able to combine with multiple players: three different girls got assists today.”

Stucky is not the only player who feels that the team has benefited from loosening up and going back to the basics.

Sophomore forward Kara Marbury echoed Stucky’s comments, and gave all the credit to Rayfield.

“Janet (Rayfield) after Thursday’s game has really been focusing on us going back to being the team where we have fun when we play, we are positive, and we have a lot of confidence,” Marbury said. “This practice this weekend was based on fun, going back to the team that we were during preseason where we were winning, where we were a positive team, we were a family, so I think we really took that to heart.”

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