Illini improve tournament chances with double-overtime win

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Illini improve tournament chances with double-overtime win

By Satvik Sethia, Staff Writer

Illinois’ conference game against Indiana University on Sunday was historic for more than one reason.

The Illini shut the Hoosiers out 1-0, improving their position from seventh in the standings and granting them the chance to advance to the Big Ten Tournament. The game also marked their departure from the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium. Construction of their new home, Demirjian Park, began last Friday. The soccer fields will be ready in time for the 2019 season. 

The team will finish the season with a 7-2 record at its home stadium, and the final home game victory could be huge for the Illini’s positioning heading into the tournament, which begins on Oct. 28.

“Well, as a team, we’re just so excited to get three points. Especially this late in the season, every point we can get counts, so this will really help us down the road,” sophomore Hope Breslin said.

The Illini took a little time to find their momentum, while the Hoosiers were threatening down the right wing through most of the first half. Despite the Hoosiers having the edge in offense during the first half, both teams struggled to get anything going. 

“I don’t think we really came out in the first half, sort of on our heels, not the kind of discipline and effort that we want to see, but I think we turned that around, created some really good chances in the second half,” coach Rayfield said. 

Both teams greatly improved their game in the second half. Freshman forward Makena Silber had several strong shots throughout the game. Deep into the second half, the Illini started to look really powerful in attack, and Hope Breslin, playing on the left, was the orchestrator. She showcased her skill in cutting through the Indiana defense, setting up several open looks.

One Breslin pass found its way to teammate Kelly Maday’s feet at the edge of the box. The Illini almost took the lead, but Maday’s shot hit off the post. Both teams continued to improve their scoring chances, but the game spilled into overtime. 

With five minutes of overtime left, Maday broke free and found herself one-on-one with the keeper, but her rolling shot was pushed just wide. The Illini continued to attack, and after a lot of scrambling in the box with only a couple of minutes left, the ball fell to Breslin, who was facing away from the goal. With a great touch, she turned around and tucked her shot into the bottom right corner to secure a last minute win for Illinois.

“Credit to this team,” Rayfield said. “Indiana is a team that scores a lot of goals, and they’ve got some danger, some powerful players in their front four, and I thought our defense did a really good job of really eliminating their chances inside the box.”

Illinois is now set to play its final two regular season games against Northwestern and Nebraska.

“We’re just going to celebrate this win, take the rest of the day and recover, and then we got to prepare our bodies and our minds for the next two games,” Breslin said. “These are definitely really important; we got to get three wins, especially on the road, so we are able to advance into the tournament.”

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