Illini soccer finishing strong in overtime this season

Saturday’s win over Michigan State was the Illinois soccer team’s second of the overtime variety this season.

The Illini have had success in overtime games in their 2011 campaign, with a record of 2-0-1.

“I think for the couple overtime games that we have had, we have had the momentum going in (to overtime),” senior Marissa Mykines said. “I think we have had some close chances up to (overtime) and I think we really have a feeling that it’s just a matter of time. So that extra time is just one or two more shots that we need to be able to finish it.”

The Illini have been able to finish this season in overtime, something they have struggled with in past seasons. Illinois finished 1-1-1 in overtime play last season and 0-0-3 in overtime play the season before.

“I know before we have said we’re more of a second-half team,” sophomore Kassidy Brown said. “I think in overtime it’s kind of like a push comes to shove and we realize that we have the chances and now we only have 10 minutes left, and I think we really put it away.”

One reason to this year’s overtime success may be due to their new 3-5-2 offense, which has allowed Illinois to wear down opponents late in the game.

“I definitely think we wear teams down,” Janet Rayfield, head coach, said. “Our possession in the midfield, any time you keep the ball, teams have to chase, and that’s the most physically demanding part of the game.

“Moving when you have the ball for whatever reason doesn’t seem to take as much energy as when you’re having to respond to someone else knocking the ball around.”

Because the Illini have been able to control the ball gaining more chances for shot opportunities, the team has built confidence.

“I think we’re a confident attacking team … we’re confident in our fitness level and confident in our attacking ability,” Rayfield said. “If you can go into an overtime with some confidence, that certainly helps.”

The Illini have outshot their opponents 8-3 in overtime play.

They also have recorded just one save to their opponents’ four, meaning the offense has control for much of the extra time.

“In overtime I think it’s just a mental thing, usually for both teams because you just have that extra time that you need to push through,” Mykines said. “But I think at that point it’s just the will to win and I think usually we have had the opportunities and we just have the need that it’s just the time to put it away.”

With one goal deciding the winner, the intensity and fatigue tend to build as overtime play goes on.

“Defensively, you have to stay focused because if you make one mistake you know that could cost you the game,” Brown said.

The Illini have played 37 minutes of extra play this season, nearly a whole half of extra time.

The extra play might have worn down the Illini, as they have lost both of their games that followed their overtime games this season. However, Rayfield doesn’t necessarily see that as a connection.

“I look at the games we have lost, and it hasn’t necessarily been a fatigue factor,” Rayfield said.

The Illini will look to break that streak coming off Saturday’s overtime victory as they face Minnesota this Friday.

“Lucky it was a one-game weekend and that always makes a difference … I think psychologically we are going into the Minnesota game preparing the same way we would, whether we had played 90 minutes at Minnesota or 110,” Rayfield said.