UI soccer offense hits wall
CHAMPAIGN – With just two goals in its previous four games, the University of Illinois soccer team's offense needed a good, swift kick-start.
On Friday night, Missy Kann thought she'd provided one.
"That typically does happen when you're dry," the senior defender said after opening the scoring in a Big Ten Conference game against Ohio State. "You get a goal, it kind of uplifts the team."
The lift, however, proved only temporary. Meanwhile, Illinois' frustrating quest for more scoring goes on.
Kann's unassisted first-half goal was all the Illini could muster in a 3-1 loss that extended their losing streak to five games. Illinois, in its first year of varsity soccer, fell to 4-5 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten.
"It's very typical of a young program," first-year Ohio State coach Lori Walker said of the UI's struggle to put the ball in the net. "I was coaching a young program at Kansas before I came to Ohio State, and it just takes time.
"It takes time to organize your attack. It takes time for the team to click and be one unit where you can move without having to talk to one another."
In getting off to a 4-0 start this season, the Illini scored four or more goals three times. But that was against the likes of Loyola of Chicago, Washington University and Rhodes College.
"Now, obviously, the competition is harder," UI coach Jillian Ellis said. "They're faster, stronger, so it becomes more difficult."
Also figuring in Illinois' scoring difficulties, Ellis said, is the lack of individual firepower on the roster right now.
"We have one pure striker on the team," said the UI coach, referring to junior forward Sarah Aberle, who leads the Illini in goals (4) and points (8).
Ellis foresees freshman Julie Schueller becoming a similar scoring force, but for now, "she's not a pure out-and-out striker. So it takes time to develop these type of players."
Ellis had been optimistic that Friday would be the Illini's time to get their first Big Ten victory. They were coming off two encouraging performances against nationally ranked opponents, each ending up in one-goal losses. They were playing on their home turf. And they were facing an Ohio State team that entered with a 3-5-1 record, including 0-2 in the Big Ten.
"I think it's a game where we felt like we could get a result," said Ellis, whose team was held to two shots in the second half. "When you're playing nationally ranked teams, you're definitely the underdog. I think tonight we came in knowing we could go head to head and hunting for a win.
"We're playing with these teams. Now it would be nice to get a result."
Not the result, of course, that unfolded Friday. Following Kann's second goal of the season – a deftly-placed shot just over leaping goalie Sherri Scott's outstretched hands and just under the crossbar – Katy Traeger twice slipped free later in the half to give Ohio State a 2-1 lead.
"I think in the first half our defense was a little haphazard," Ellis said. "We gave them too much room to play. In the second half, we tightened things up."
But by then, the damage was done.
"At the beginning of the season, we were firing away and everything we shot went in," Kann said. "We just have to get back in that grove again."