Illinois Soccer Fit to Be Tied
A draw beats a loss, especially on the road in the Big Ten.
Illini Week in Review
It was a tale of two halves for Illinois on Sunday in their Big Ten opener at Iowa. The Hawkeyes struck quickly with goals in the 9th and 13th minutes to build a 2-0 lead that they would take into halftime. Iowa outshot the Illini in the opening 45 minutes by a count of 9-6. Illinois would battle back in the second half on goals by senior defender Jenna Carosio and junior Shayla Mutz just over a minute apart to tie the contest at 2-2. There was no scoring after that, though Illinois controlled the run of play, outshooting Iowa 13-6 through the second half and overtime periods.
Next up for Illinois is the always difficult road trip to Ohio State and Penn State. The Illini will try to win in Columbus for the second straight season, as they knocked off the Buckeyes 2-1 last season. That match starts at 6:30pm central time on Friday. Then it's on to State College to face the Nittany Lions, who lost at Wisconsin in their league opener, on Sunday at Noon central time.
Big Ten Week in Review
Illinois 2 Iowa 2
Team of the Week: Michigan State. A 4-3 win over Detroit isn't all that impressive, but the Spartans were able to go 2-0 for the week, including a win on the road at Purdue. Road wins in league play are never easy, so that was a big one for MSU to get. They also saw their starting goalkeeper Jill Fleitstra back on the field in West Lafayette after she missed the previous three games for Sparty.
Team of the Weak: Ohio State. There's nothing wrong with a tie at Minnesota, as it's always tough to win in Minneapolis. But coupled with a midweek loss at home to Dayton, it was a disappointing 0-1-1 week for the Buckeyes. The winner of Friday's OSU-Illinois game remains an early contender for the Big Ten title, while the loser takes a big step back.
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. (2) Wisconsin. Did the Badgers get caught looking ahead to Saturday's game against Penn State? Perhaps, but Central Michigan is no slouch, as they've represented the MAC in the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Regardless, Wisconsin knocked off number one, so they'll get the top spot this week.
2. (1) Penn State. I'm only dropping the Nittany Lions one spot, as they outshot Wisconsin in Saturday's loss, including a 7-2 advantage in shots on goal. They get a tuneup against Bucknell tonight before getting back into Big Ten play against Northwestern on Friday.
3. (5) Michigan State. Laura Heyboer continues to shine for MSU, as she had a hat trick against Detroit before contributing both goals on Sunday in the Spartans' 2-1 win at Purdue. Getting Jill Fleitstra back in net is also big.
4. (4) Illinois. It took the Illini too long to adjust to a smaller wet field in Iowa City, as they conceded two early goals before battling back for a draw. This week should show whether Illinois can contend for the conference championship. The Illini have been held to fewer than two goals only once this season, but the defense continues to be an issue.
5. (3) Ohio State. Offense is the issue in Columbus so far this season, as the Buckeyes have only tallied 11 goals in 9 games thus far. Last year's Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Paige Maxwell, has only one goal thus far. She leads the team in shots, but only one third of her attempts are getting on frame.
6. (6) Nebraska. This year's race for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year is shaping up to be a dandy, in part because of the addition to Morgan Marlborough to the conference. Her hat trick on Sunday vs. Northwestern gives her 12 goals so far this season, just behind Heyboer's 13.
7. (7) Michigan. A nice road win to start off the league slate for the Wolverines, but I'm not ready to move them up quite yet. Wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin would do the trick, as those two squads will visit Ann Arbor this week.
8. (8) Iowa. Credit the Hawkeyes for starting quickly on Sunday vs. Illinois before fading a bit in the second half and overtimes. They've got a chance to move up the pecking order this week if they can pick up a pair of wins on the road. They're winnable games at Purdue and Indiana.
9. (9) Minnesota. A tie at home against Ohio State isn't a horrible result, but with the non-conference season they had, Minnesota needs to start picking up wins soon. Trips to Michigan and Michigan State this weekend won't be easy.
10. (10) Purdue. After a nice win over Indiana State, Purdue had an opportunity to start off the league season on a high note. But as has happened so often this season, they lost a close game at home. They'll get two more home games this week against Nebraska and Iowa.
11. (11) Indiana. The Hoosiers had their chances at home against Michigan, but couldn't finish. One lapse from their goalkeeper Lindsay Campbell allowed the only goal of the game, and Campbell otherwise played very well. They'll see the same opponents at home as their neighbors in West Lafayette this week.
12. (12) Northwestern. You don't need to tell the Wildcats how good Morgan Marlborough is, as they saw it first hand in Lincoln on Sunday. It doesn't get any easier this week with trips to Penn State and Ohio State.
To the Polls
With all of the teams getting national rankings suffering losses and/or ties, the polls aren't very kind to the Big Ten this week, as you might expect. The Top Drawer Tournament 64 rankings tend to fluctuate a bit less than most polls, so the Big Ten doesn't do badly here. Penn State continues to lead the way at #22, followed by Illinois (#27), Ohio State (#29), Michigan State (#34), Wisconsin (#39) and Michigan (#41).
In this week's NSCAA Top 25, it's Illinois that is the only Big Ten team in the poll this week, as they rose one spot to #22. Iowa, Penn State and Ohio State are receiving votes.
Milwaukee continues to lead the way in the NSCAA Great Lakes region rankings, which is only appropriate since they've had their way against Big Ten competition this season. Illinois leads the Big Ten contingent at #2, followed by Iowa (#3), Penn State (#4), Wisconsin (#6), Ohio State (#7), Michigan State (#8), Michigan (#9) and Nebraska (#10).
Soccer America's Top 25 has a bit different take on things, with Wisconsin leading the Big Ten contingent at #19 this week. They're joined in this week's poll by Penn State at #21, down five spots from a week ago.
Finally, as of 2pm on Tuesday, no Soccer Times Top 25 for this week. I'll try to update if they put out their poll later today.
What's on Tap
Last week was another shaky week for my picks, as I went just 6-4-2, putting my season total at 56-16-4. I'll try to improve a bit in week two of conference play. Here we go, and my winners are in bold.
Penn State at Bucknell. The Nittany Lions will take out their frustration at Saturday's result on the Bison.
Illinois at Ohio State. Look for the Illini to take advantage of an OSU team that has yet to find its scoring touch in 2011.
Iowa at Indiana. I can't remember the last time I picked Iowa to win a road game. This is a sign that the Hawkeyes are starting to convince me they may have enough to get an NCAA bid for the first time in program history.
Minnesota at Michigan. Let's get physical. The Gophers really need a win, and the Wolverines will be defending home turf.
Northwestern at Penn State. There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's tough for the Wildcats to see it in State College.
Nebraska at Purdue. For the second straight game, the Boilermakers will see an All-American candidate up top, and for the second straight game, they'll have trouble finding answers.
Wisconsin at Michigan State. The irresistible force of Laura Heyboer meets the immovable object of the Wisconsin defense. The Badgers shut Heyboer and MSU down in a 2-0 win last season. I'll bet on history repeating.
Illinois at Penn State. Illinois has never won at Penn State. Add in the fact that it's the back half of a tough Friday-Sunday road trip, and I'll go with the Nittany Lions.
Iowa at Purdue. Note that I said that Iowa is starting to convince me they could earn an NCAA bid. I'm not quite there yet, but a 2-0 week would probably do it.
Minnesota at Michigan State. Sparty won't go 0-2 at home, though the Gophers will make them earn it.
Northwestern at Ohio State. It's tough for me to see the Wildcats springing the upset here.
Nebraska at Indiana. The Huskers go 2-0 on their first ever Big Ten road trip? When it's at Purdue and Indiana, I think the answer is "yes."
Wisconsin at Michigan. It's tough to go against a Badger defense that shut out Penn State last week.
I obviously didn't learn my lesson last week, as I'm going with the road team in half of my picks this week. Will it pay off? We'll find out.
On the Air
Once again, I'm not making the road trip, and our next Illini Soccer broadcast on WDWS will be Sunday 10/2 when the Illini host Purdue. I'll try to catch up with a couple of players after practice tomorrow to get their thoughts on the road trip out east. Thanks for reading.