Illini fall to Big Ten competitors

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Illini fall to Big Ten competitors

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

After opening Big Ten play with a win over Northwestern, Illinois traveled out west to take on Iowa and Nebraska. The Illini lost both contests, 3-1, and 1-0, respectively.

Being on the road is nothing new for the Illini, who have played a majority of their games in locales away from Champaign-Urbana this season. What is new for this year’s Illini, though, is Big Ten play on the road.

The Illini entered this weekend with a 7-1 record, their best season start since 2015. Head coach Janet Rayfield also earned her 200th career-win against Northwestern, making her one of the Illinois coaches with the most wins.

The Illini have also began playing at Demirjian Park and are undefeated on their new home turf, compiling a 4-0 home record for the season, including two games at Illinois Soccer Stadium played earlier this fall.

Illinois posted a single road loss prior to the weekend matches, losing to San Francisco earlier this season in Los Angeles; however, Illinois defeated Butler and Illinois State on the road in September.

Thursday night, the Illini gave up three goals and scored only once against the Hawkeyes — uncharacteristic of their two-plus goals-per-game average prior to this loss. The last time the two teams played, Illinois was defeated by Iowa 1-0 in Champaign in October 2017.

But, the Illini-Hawkeye series picked up where it left off. Iowa scored first, but Illinois senior forward Kelly Maday put one in at 24:16. Iowa pulled ahead, and Illinois found itself behind at the half, an unusual situation for this year’s squad.

The second half wasn’t any better for Illinois, and Iowa scored at 84:15 to take a 3-1 lead, handing Illinois its second loss of the season.

The Illini had a fast turnaround between games, with only about 64 hours between the conclusion of the Iowa game and kickoff at Nebraska.

The Nebraska game mirrored Illinois’ woes at Iowa, but was dissimilar to the last time the two teams played. Illinois defeated Nebraska 2-1 in October 2018 on the Cornhuskers’ home turf.

The first half was quiet, featuring no goals but five Illinois shots, four Nebraska shots, three Illinois saves, one Nebraska save, seven Illinois fouls and 10 Nebraska fouls.

There was a lack of scoring throughout a majority of the game, and the first and only goal of the day was scored by Nebraska midfielder and forward Brenna Ochoa at 58:30.

The game was relatively tame in the first half with things picking up in the second half. Following Ochoa’s goal, Nebraska midfielders Kathleen Aitchison and Kenzie Coons got yellow cards at 60:19 and 60:23, respectively. Maday got a yellow card at 70:28.

The Illini didn’t score for the remainder of the game, losing 1-0 to the Cornhuskers, marking the team’s third loss of the season and second consecutively. Illinois hasn’t lost two consecutive games since September 2018, when the team lost three contests in a row.

Illinois will return to Demirjian Park this week to face Indiana. The Illini defeated the Hoosiers last year 1-0.

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