Illinois holds the fort against Michigan State

By Satvik Sethia, Staff Writer

The Illini soccer team kept a clean sheet to shut Michigan State out at home. It was a display of resolve and tenacity by the Illini, and they walked out with a 1-0 win to show for it.

The first half was rather slow, with almost no action on either end. The Spartans’ first shot came at the 42nd minute, and they registered one other shot, whereas the Illini took six shots, hitting the woodwork with two of them.

The second half saw action early on, as the Illini clinched the lead in the 47th minute. Maggie Hillman shot from outside the box was barely punched out by the Spartan keeper, when Katie Murray capitalized on the rebound by rising the highest to put a header into the back of the net.

“[It feels] definitely rewarding; before the game our coach talked about taking advantage of each moment, whatever moment you’re in,” Murray said. “Be in the present, and don’t look ahead. Kudos Maggie [Maggie Hillman] for putting that ball on frame to even give us that opportunity.”

The Illini looked sharper all over the field compared to last weekend – trying to get the ball into attack continuously, connecting more passes and holding possession in midfield. They intercepted most of the passes that Michigan State tried to play, especially down the right flank.

The Spartans threatened to equalize a couple of times. Once when one of their forwards was one-on-one with the keeper, and another time when a shot hit the crossbar 20 minutes before full time. However, the Illini, who stuck with three center-backs for the whole game, managed to keep the ball out of their net on the way to a victory.

“It’s a team that really puts you under pressure with the balls they play in over the top,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Credit to our defense – they did a really good job of helping each other out, reading that service, fighting through some of the battles and helping us come away with a shut-out and a win. They never left their four back, and so it allowed us to stay [with the three back].”

It was hard-fought, but thoroughly deserved and desperately needed win for Illinois, who lost their last two conference home games. It appears as if Rayfield’s ‘being in the moment’ mentality is working.

“We definitely needed to come out and take care of business, and we did, so it’s important that we carry this momentum on the road with us,” Murray said. “Coach Rayfield talked about really valuing each moment of the game, and that’s what we do. Don’t look ahead, don’t look behind us. Wherever we’re at, we’re in the present, inside the game, and play to our best ability.”

With this game, confidence has improved in the camp which will come in handy for the road. The Illini will be traveling away from home to play against Maryland and Rutgers in their next two games.

“They show up to compete, and so we’re going to take this show on the road and again try to play one minute at a time, and play 90 minutes,” Rayfield said. “This team has a whatever-it-takes attitude. Whatever it takes in the box, almost to scrum down there at one end, and something to make something happen on this end. So we’ll take our whatever-it-takes attitude and take it on the road.”

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