Illini Soccer - Walking Wounded
Illini Week in Review
Illinois went into last weekend needing at least one win to solidify their position in the middle of the Big Ten standings. Instead, a pair of losses knocked them down to tenth place in the conference. Friday night at Purdue, the Illini gave up an early goal to Maddy Williams that would stand up in a 1-0 defeat. It was the first time the Illini had been shut out this season, as the last time Illinois failed to score was a 3-0 defeat at Minnesota on October 12th of last season.
On Sunday, the Illini wouldn't be shut out, as they posted a pair of goals, including Janelle Flaws' thirteenth tally of the season, but Indiana's offense proved to be too much in a 3-2 decision in wet Bloomington, Indiana. Illinois would strike first in this one, as Megan Pawloski's shot was saved by IU goalkeeper Shannon Flower in the 4th minute, but Flaws was there to put home the rebound. Indiana would get the equalizer late in the first half, after they started to win the possession battle in the midfield. That trend would continue into the second half, as Indiana would get goals from Kayleigh Steigerwalt and Jordan Woolums (her 2nd of the day) to grab a 3-1 lead. Kassidy Brown would get the Illini closer with about five minutes left, as she chipped a beautiful shot over Flower from the right side of the box to make the score 3-2. But that is how the game would end, as the Illini couldn't gain enough possession to seriously threaten in the final minutes.
With the loss the Illini find themselves in tenth place in the Big Ten with a 1-3-1 league mark. Injuries have certainly played a part in the team's three-game losing streak. Here's a list of the players who were unavailable on Sunday for head coach Janet Rayfield:
- senior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo (sprained knee, missed last three games)
- freshman center back Casey Conine (undisclosed injury, missed last two games)
- sophomore midfielder Regan Robishaw (undisclosed injury, missed last two games)
- freshman midfielder Hope D'Addario (broken collarbone, out for season)
- sophomore defender Tailor Smith (undisclosed injury in spring, has not yet played in 2013 after starting seven games in 2012)
Conine and Robishaw are likely to return for Saturday's game vs. Wisconsin. DiBernardo is questionable, according to Rayfield. The above injuries have wreaked havoc with the Illini midfield. In addition to DiBernardo's absence, midfield starter Aliina Weykamp has moved to center back to fill in for Conine. That left sophomores Taylore Peterson and Nicole Breece as the lone regulars in the midfield, and depth was impacted, too, as Robishaw and D'Addario were key reserves. Even if DiBernardo is unable to play this Saturday, getting Conine and Robishaw back in the mix could really help Illinois stabilize their midfield, with Weykamp moving up from the back line.
Big Ten Week in Review
Indiana 3 Illinois 2
Team of the Week: Michigan. A pair of road wins for the Wolverines last week lifted them from the middle of the pack to back in the conference title conversation, just two points behind Penn State and Nebraska, one of the teams that Michigan beat.
Team of the Weak: Illinois. Injuries or not, the Illini find themselves in a precarious position, not only for their NCAA Tournament hopes, but also for qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament on their home field next month after a pair of losses on the road.
Big Ten Standings
To the Polls
Once again, time dictates that I simply list these, rather than offer any misguided opinions:
What's on Tap
It's a one-match weekend throughout the conference, which should give some teams a chance to heal up and regroup a bit. It may also give this prognosticator a chance to lick his wounds after a mediocre 7-4-1 week of picks, the same record as last week. That puts the season total at 14-8-2. We'll see if this week is any better. My picks are in bold.
Nebraska at Purdue. A very interesting matchup in West Lafayette between two teams performing better than expected so far in league play. Which one is more "for real?" Hard to say for sure, but I was impressed with Nebraska when I saw them in Champaign ten days ago, so that's my pick.
Wisconsin at Illinois. Will Vanessa DiBernardo play? Uncertain. With DiBernardo, this is a challenge for the Illini. Without her, I'm not sure there's enough strength in the midfield to outbattle a very solid Wisconsin squad, led by Alev Kelter.
Iowa at Indiana. This is really a must-win for both squads with regards to NCAA Tournament hopes. The Hoosiers have to hold serve at home, while the Hawkeyes need to prove they can pick up a quality win on the road. I say the Hoosiers pick up the win.
Minnesota at Northwestern. The Wildcats have lost each of their first five games in the league by a single goal. They're going to knock someone off, but I don't think it will be the Gophers, who have a lot to play for themselves.
Ohio State at Michigan State. The Spartans were very rude hosts to Minnesota a couple of weeks ago, but I'm sure the Buckeyes have seen that tape. With their own NCAA hopes hanging on by a thread, I'll take OSU.
Michigan at Penn State. Here we go. Most Big Ten observers have had this one circled on the calendar since the Nittany Lions needed penalty kicks to eliminate the Wolverines in the NCAA round of 16 a season ago. Neither team seems to be firing on all cylinders heading into this one, but Penn State has won 15 straight league titles for a reason.
On the Air
No game broadcast for the next two weeks. Our next Illini game on the radio is on Friday 10/25, when Illinois hosts Michigan. In the meantime, look for some coach and player interviews.
Thanks for reading.