Illinois soccer grinds out double overtime win at MSU

The last drill the Illinois soccer team practiced before the game against Michigan State on Saturday was a shooting drill, not knowing that its last shot on goal during the game would be the most important.

Earning their third consecutive win in conference play, the Illini (9-4-1, 3-2-1 Big Ten)defeated Michigan State (10-4-0, 3-3-0)in a double-overtime Big Ten battle at East Lansing, Mich.

Within the first 30 seconds of the game, junior Niki Read took a shot that went high over the left corner of the net. This set the tone for the Orange and Blue for the game. At halftime Illinois led Michigan State in shots 10-4, shots on goal 6-2 and corner kicks 3-2. The contest remained scoreless due to the Spartans tough defensive line.

“I definitely think their ability in the air and their two center backs made it really difficult to play, any time you turned trying to get any kind of shot in there, and we missed a couple chances that we created,” Janet Rayfield, Illinois’ head coach, said. “I thought both defenses really battled. Jenna Carosio slid and blocked a shot behind the (six-yard box) for us, they had a couple of positions to clear the ball off of a line. (MSU goalkeeper Jill) Flietstra played great, I think she had about 10 or 11 saves. No one was really willing to give up a goal today. It was just a lot of fight in both boxes.”

*Light schedule allows for increased energy*

Though defense has been an increased focus for the Illini since entering Big Ten play, energy is a new focus after the last two competitions at home against Indiana and Purdue on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2. After defeating Indiana 4-1, the Orange and Blue started slower against Purdue, feeling a little worn out from the game just two days before.

“I think if you were at the game Sunday it was kind of a slow start and that is on us,” senior Julie Ewing said. “That is something that will help us going into these next Big Ten weekends to know to come out with energy every single game right from the start, otherwise you are going to make it a lot harder on yourself.”

Illinois only had one game against the Spartans as opposed to its usual two-game weekends, which require them to play Friday and Sunday. Ewing said this helped her team excel over Michigan State in double overtime.

“I think as we saw the game go on, we kept going at it and kept going at it and even in overtime we didn’t feel as tired as we probably could have felt,” Ewing said. “We really just felt prepared for that situation from the practices we had this week and we were ready to keep going even after the 90 minutes were up.”

*Big Ten success creating momentum*

Tallying 23 shots Saturday, the Illini plan to add another focus to their list — putting chances away. Of the 23 shots, the only one of consequence was senior Marissa Mykines’ game-winning goal in the 113th minute of double overtime. Vanessa DiBernardo carried the ball down the sideline and crossed it into the center of the field at Mykines’ feet. Mykines took a few dribbles and sent a shot into the left side of the net past the Michigan State’s diving goalkeeper Jill Flietstra. Though Illinois was lucky enough to put a goal on the scoreboard, Mykines said her team needs to start putting away the chances sooner and more often.

“We did what we needed to do to keep them at a shutout and give us as many chances as we needed,” Mykines said. “We definitely had a lot of opportunities and we probably need to start putting more of those away, but in the end we got the outcome we wanted.”

As the Illini look to the next two games against Minnesota (5-7-2, 2-2-2)and Wisconsin (8-4-2, 3-1-2), they are aware of the improvements they need to make, but are pleased with the performance they had at Michigan State. Earning another shutout and another Big Ten win is creating momentum for the Orange and Blue, which Mykines said reflects on her team as a whole in a good light.

“We definitely showed resilience,” Mykines said. “We had Michigan State on their toes, especially at the end of the second half, and going into both overtimes we were just going at it. It was just a matter of time before one hit the back of the net. We had a ton of opportunities, we just didn’t let it get us down, we kept going at it knowing we were going to get one.”