Illinois hitting the target at higher frequency in 2018

Illinois hitting the target at higher frequency in 2018

CHAMPAIGN — Illinois was shut out 10 times in the 2017 season, including a stretch of four straight losses to end the 5-14 season at the bottom of the Big Ten standings.

The Illini's 13 total goals last season were actually surpassed by individual players three times in the previous six years. Vanessa DiBernardo scored 17 in the 2011 season, while Janelle Flaws had consecutive seasons of 23 and 16 goals in 2013 and 2014.

The obvious statistic about Illinois' 4-2 start to the 2018 season that also includes a pair of top 25 wins? The Illini are already 19 goals deep into the season before Sunday's final nonconference match at 1 p.m. against Illinois State.

"Certainly our ability to put the ball in the back of the net has changed," Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said. "That's changed our confidence, and that's changed the way we've played. All of a sudden, that's changed our results."

Senior midfielder Katie Murray leads Illinois with four goals — already a career high — while fellow senior Morgan Maroney has been moved into the midfield to add a different dynamic to the Illini attack. Junior Kelly Maday and freshman Makena Silber have three goals apiece.

"(Silber) makes a difference because she's kind of a natural goal scorer," Rayfield said. "When you have someone like that, it starts to open other things up. ... It's a lot of factors. Some personalities that sort of start the snowball rolling, some senior leadership that keeps it rolling and then some confidence from the goals that we've scored and all of a sudden that makes our team a little different when it comes to goal scoring."

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Soccer