Two Tough Tests Await As Redbirds Open 2013 Season
Aug. 22, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State soccer team will open its season this weekend with a pair of home matches against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2013. The Redbirds will host defending Mid-American Conference champion Miami (Ohio), Friday at 4 p.m., before welcoming Wisconsin to Adelaide Street Field, Sunday at 1 p.m.
ISU scored a combined nine and allowed a combined seven goals in its two exhibition victories over Eastern Michigan and Iowa State last week. Those two matches, combined with the two-plus weeks of training, have head coach Drew Roff's group ready to begin their quest for a third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"So far, we've scored some goals and given up some goals, but we've learned a lot about our group," Roff said. "It's a process, and this team is going to get a lot better, but from where we are right now, I have liked everything I have seen. The team is training hard, and the level of intensity in training has been where it needs to be if we are going to be successful."
Scouting the RedHawks
The RedHawks are coming off one of the best years in program-history after winning a school- and MAC-record 20 games in 2012, including a NCAA Tournament upset at No. 20 Tennessee. Miami returns 10 of 11 starters from that squad, but does lose MAC Player of the Year Jess Kodiak, who led the team with 36 points, 12 goals and 12 assists. Still, Kodiak was just one of five RedHawks to record at least 26 points and one of eight who started all 24 matches. Two-time All-MAC First Team choice Katy Dolesh (26 PTS, 9 G, 8 A in 2012) and three-time All-MAC selection Kayla Zakrzewski will continue to provide firepower for head coach Bobby Kramig in his 17th season at the helm.
"Miami had a breakout year last season," Roff said. "We've talked about wanting to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament, and they did that. I definitely have to give them a lot of credit, and we realize that we are in for a great challenge playing a team of that caliber."
Friday marks the first meeting all-time between the Redbirds and RedHawks. ISU holds an all-time mark of 22-13-3 against teams from the MAC, including a 3-1 record last season.
Scouting the Badgers
Conversely, Sunday will be the fourth all-time meeting between ISU and Wisconsin. The Redbirds are 1-2 in those matchups, including a heart-breaking 3-2 double-overtime loss at Wisconsin last season.
"Everyone is really excited to get another shot at Wisconsin," senior Kyla Cross said. "We know we played really well in the game last year, and were very bummed losing in double overtime. I think it has fueled the fire for us to play them again, and we'll be ready."
The Badgers returned to the NCAA Tournament last season for the 17th time in program history after a one-year hiatus. After losing to No. 6 UCLA in the first round, UW ended the season with a 12-8-1 overall record. Nine players who started at least one match return for the Badgers and seventh-year head coach Paula Wilkins in 2013. Junior Cara Walls figures to lead the offensive attack again, after scoring a team-best 10 goals last season, but the Badgers will have to deal with the departures of Monica Lam-Feist and Paige Adams, who scored the second-most goals on the squad with six apiece. Wisconsin was picked to finish fifth in the league's preseason poll, with Walls, sophomore Kinley McNicoll and freshman Rose Lavelle tabbed as "Players to Watch."
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