Illinois soccer handed 5-0 loss to Penn State

Illinois soccer came into Sunday’s game with a lot of optimism. A couple of weeks ago it appeared the team’s season was spiraling out of control as it was in the middle of a three-game slide. The Illini were in jeopardy of not making the Big Ten Tournament, which they will host next month. The team (8-6-2, 3-4-1) turned that losing streak around with a win over then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Oct. 12 and followed with another win at Northwestern on Thursday night. 

The Illini started Sunday ranked sixth in the Big Ten standings with 10 points, while No. 17 Penn State was third with 15. The Nittany Lions were favorites for this match but not many saw the final score coming as they put five goals past Illinois while holding the Illini scoreless.

“A lot of it was us getting beaten by ourselves,” freshman midfielder Meegan Johnston said. “We weren’t connecting passes we should’ve, we weren’t finding each other. We weren’t playing our game and we got sucked into what Penn State was doing.”

Penn State took an early lead as Raquel Rodriquez turned a defense-splitting pass by Taylor Schram into the back of the net in the eighth minute. Six minutes later, an Illinois clearance fell to Rodriquez at the top of the penalty area and the sophomore midfielder blasted home her fifth goal of the season.

The Illini had only one come-from-behind victory this year and that was the 3-1 win at Northwestern just days earlier. 

Any hopes of a comeback were further dashed when the Lions went up 3-0 in the 30th minute. After receiving a pass around the penalty spot, Tani Costa turned an Illinois defender and unleashed a strike in the bottom corner of Claire Wheatley’s goal. The Illinois goal was constantly under attack for the next 15 minutes before halftime.

The Nittany Lions came out swinging in the second period as they netted two goals in the first five minutes. Mallory Weber scored her sixth of the year in the 47th minute before assisting the team’s top-scorer Maya Hayes to her 16th goal of the season just two minutes later. The rest of the game would appear evenly matched as Penn State cruised to victory and marked its senior day with its second largest margin of victory this season. 

For Illinois, Michigan and Michigan State are up next on the schedule. Next weekend will be the Illini’s last homes games before the Big Ten Tournament, and the team currently sits in the final qualification spot. Illinois is currently one point ahead of Purdue, two ahead of Minnesota, four ahead of Michigan State and seven ahead of Northwestern. Illinois needs to finish higher than all those teams to clinch a berth in the Big Ten tournament. 

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