Illinois falls to Iowa, Nebraska

The+Illini+soccer+team+celebrates+after+defeating+Northwestern+3-1+on+Sep.+20.+Illinois+lost+to+Iowa+and+Nebraska+this+past+week.+
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Illinois falls to Iowa, Nebraska

The Illini soccer team celebrates after defeating Northwestern 3-1 on Sep. 20. Illinois lost to Iowa and Nebraska this past week.

The Illini soccer team celebrates after defeating Northwestern 3-1 on Sep. 20. Illinois lost to Iowa and Nebraska this past week.

Jonathan Bonaguro

The Illini soccer team celebrates after defeating Northwestern 3-1 on Sep. 20. Illinois lost to Iowa and Nebraska this past week.

Jonathan Bonaguro

Jonathan Bonaguro

The Illini soccer team celebrates after defeating Northwestern 3-1 on Sep. 20. Illinois lost to Iowa and Nebraska this past week.

By Claire O’Brien, Staff writer

Illinois soccer is returning to Demirjian Park Thursday to play Indiana. The Illini completed their first Big Ten road trip of the season this weekend, losing to Iowa and Nebraska and will take their second Big Ten road trip to Maryland on Sunday.

Head coach Janet Rayfield said while the team is focused on their self-improvement, they’re aware of increased competition in this stretch of the season. The Big Ten is usually a fairly strong conference in soccer, but currently, only No. 10 Wisconsin (7-2-1) is ranked in the top 25 in the NCAA RPI. Illinois dropped to No. 31 this week following the losses at Iowa and Nebraska.

“We have to get better at communication, collective defending,” Rayfield said. “Now that we’re in the Big Ten, chances are fewer, so we’ve really gotta work on having the confidence in the box and the numbers in the box to really take advantage of the opportunities that we’re creating.”

Thursday, the Illini (7-3) will be able to focus on what they’ve worked on, coming into the game with a 13-6-4 all-time record against the Hoosiers. Indiana comes to Champaign with a 4-5-1 record, and the Illini defeated the Hoosiers 1-0 in overtime last season in Champaign.

Offensively, the Illini have twice the amount of goals this season, with 20 goals compared to Indiana’s 10. Illinois has given up 16 goals and Indiana 11.

Illinois has more yellow cards, with seven this season. Indiana has four yellow cards but has yet to get a penalty kick this season. Illinois is 4-4 on penalty kicks for the season.

Illinois has been focusing on defensive improvement this season but makes tweaks based on opponents. But Rayfield said focusing on playing their best is more important.

“If we play our best soccer, then who we’re playing doesn’t matter near as much,” Rayfield said.

@claire_obrien43

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