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The Daily Illini

Illinois soccer ready for final Big Ten push in last home match

Illinois%27+Allison+Stucky+%2810%29+gets+a+hug+from+Alicia+Barker+after+scoring+the+only+goal+in+the+game+against+Illinois+State+at+Illnois+Soccer+Stadium+on+Aug.+21.+The+Illini+won+1-0.
Illinois' Allison Stucky (10) gets a hug from Alicia Barker after scoring the only goal in the game against Illinois State at Illnois Soccer Stadium on Aug. 21. The Illini won 1-0.

Illinois' Allison Stucky (10) gets a hug from Alicia Barker after scoring the only goal in the game against Illinois State at Illnois Soccer Stadium on Aug. 21. The Illini won 1-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Allison Stucky (10) gets a hug from Alicia Barker after scoring the only goal in the game against Illinois State at Illnois Soccer Stadium on Aug. 21. The Illini won 1-0.

By Chris Kennedy, Staff writer

Saturday marks the team’s final home match of the season for Illinois soccer, and it’s shaping up to be a must-win for the Illini to stay in the Big Ten tournament race.

After a rough start to the conference slate, the Illini have won three of their last four matches. A win Sunday at Iowa kept Illinois in contention for a tournament slot.

“These are three points that we had to have,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “We just have to continue to focus on the things we can control. Our effort, our training mentality, and taking care of our bodies.”

The top eight teams in the conference make the Big Ten tournament. Illinois currently sits in tenth place, four points out of the eighth and final tournament spot. Two crucial regular season matches remain for Illinois to make a push — this Saturday against Wisconsin and next week at No. 23 Northwestern.

The Wildcats have been one of the Big Ten’s top teams all season, so the fixture against the sixth-place Badgers at home appears to be Illinois’ best chance to pick up three points. The Badgers are undefeated in their last five matches. They have also had a knack this season for grinding out matches, going to overtime seven times this season.

In their last four games, the Illini have out-scored opponents 8-4. In their first five Big Ten games, they managed only one goal while allowing eight.

Sophomore Patricia George was the Illini’s most productive forward during junior forward Kara Marbury’s injury, and she shares the team’s goal-scoring lead. George scored twice against Michigan State on Oct. 9.

All of the team’s other scoring had come from senior midfielders, and the group has continued to make their mark, as Taylore Peterson and Reagan Robishaw have scored in the team’s last three victories.

The Illini’s biggest win of the season came against Michigan, then leading the conference.

“I know this team will never stop fighting,” Rayfield said.

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