Illini soccer battles through long weekend in Arizona.

The weekend seemed like it would never end.

The Illinois soccer team went through two games, a one-and-a-half hour game delay and four overtime periods just to see the end of the weekend. The end result wasn’t so bright as Illinois fell to 3-2-1, losing to Arizona State on Friday and tying Arizona on Sunday at the Sun Devil Classic in Tempe, Ariz.

“It was disappointing with respect to the result,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Certainly we didn’t come here to be satisfied with a tie and a loss, but I think we got a lot out of this weekend in terms of improvement from Friday to (Sunday). Defensively, we figured some things out, and it was a great lesson in terms of adapting.”

Friday, after a double overtime draw played out between Kansas and Arizona on the same field, the Illini had to wait out a delay due to uncertain weather. Once the match began, Illinois fell behind early to Arizona State in the first half at 1-0. Seconds into the second half, sophomore forward Cali Farquharson doubled the Sun Devils’ advantage by rifling a shot into the top left corner of the net. But the Illini showed they weren’t willing to give up anything easily.

In 62nd minute, forward Janelle Flaws was fouled in the penalty area and captain Vanessa DiBernardo stepped up to slot home the ensuing spot kick. Three minutes later, Flaws finished a cross from Megan Pawloski to pull the Illini back on level terms and begin her brace. The deadlock only lasted six minutes before the Arizona State regained the lead through Devin Marshall’s second goal of the game. This lead lasted until the 80th minute when an Illinois throw-in was flicked on by freshman defender Casey Conine to set up Flaws for the completion of her brace. The goal continued Flaws’ blistering start to the season as it marked her seventh goal in six appearances this season.

“She’s definitely an asset to the team,” DiBernardo said. “She’s always in the right place at the right time and she creates opportunities (for others), so it’s definitely helpful for us as a team to have someone like that.”

The rest of regulation time and the first overtime of that game would remain goalless. The next goal would come with three and a half minutes left in the second overtime as Farquharson’s 107th minute golden goal secured a win for the Sun Devils.

Sunday afternoon presented a new challenge for the Illini as they faced an undefeated Arizona team. The Wildcats had started their season with three wins and two draws, including the game against Kansas two days earlier.

The match showcased stellar displays of defending as both sides’ defenses and goalkeepers traded stops and saves. In the 64th minute, the scoreboard finally had a tale to tell after DiBernardo’s 18-yard strike squirmed through Gabby Kaufman’s gloves for an Illinois lead. The Illini were able to maintain this lead until the 82nd minute when a clearance inadvertently struck an Illinois player’s arm in the box. The Wildcats’ Jazmin Ponce stepped up to score the penalty kick and what would be the last goal of the game.

“If you look at our game on Friday and Sunday, there was improvement,” Flaws said. “There was much improvement across the field, so I think we are getting to where we want to be.”

Lanre can be reached at [email protected] and @WriterLanre.