Redbirds Travel to Two Big Ten Foes This Weekend
Aug. 29, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State soccer team (1-1-0) will continue its challenging non-conference slate by playing two road matches against Big Ten teams this weekend. The Redbirds take on Minnesota, Friday, before playing at Illinois, Sunday. Both matches start at 7 p.m.
ISU opened the season last weekend with two home matches against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012. Two goals from Kyla Cross and one from Hannah Leinert led the Redbirds past defending Mid-American Conference-champion Miami (Ohio), 3-2, before Leinert scored ISU’s only goal in a 4-1 loss to Wisconsin.
Combined with the match against Wisconsin, ISU is in a stretch of three-straight matches against teams from the Big Ten. The Redbirds hold an 8-21-2 record all-time against teams from the league, and have played at least one game against a Big Ten team every year since 2008, which was head coach Drew Roff’s second season at ISU.
“When I first got here, playing the Big Ten teams was a little different than it is now for us,” Roff said. “We were not quite as competitive as we are now. I remember getting a couple of shots here and there against those opponents, and there was a different feel to it. Now, we feel like we can compete a lot more consistently.
“It’s a great measuring stick for us,” Roff added. We are just trying to be the best we can be and play the best competition that we can.”
Scouting the Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers are coming off two season-opening victories at home, 2-1 over Toledo and 4-1 against North Dakota State. Minnesota was picked to finish seventh in the Big Ten after going 11-7-2 overall and 6-4-1 in league-play last season. The Gophers return just five starters from that squad, however, and welcome eight freshman and four transfers to the program. The newcomers have made an impact early, as NDSU transfer Taylor Stainbrook and freshman Josee Stiever lead the squad with two goals apiece.
The Redbirds and Golden Gophers have met three times previously, with Minnesota taking all three matches. The most recent meeting came at Adelaide Street Field in 2011, a 1-0 victory for the Gophers. This will be the first time the two teams have played with second-year head coach Stefanie Golan at the helm of Minnesota.
“Minnesota has always given us good competition and been a great measuring stick for us,” Roff said. “They have a new coaching staff up there from what we played a couple years ago, so I’m sure they will play a little bit different. Every year is different. We need to be prepared to play against a team that is going to come out hard and come after us. We need to come prepared and stay composed.”
Scouting the Fighting Illini
Similar to the Redbirds, the Fighting Illini opened 2013 with a pair of high-scoring matches, losing, 4-1, at No. 10 Notre Dame before winning at Louisville in overtime, 5-4. Illinois returns seven starters from last year’s team that went 10-9-4 overall and 6-4-1 in the Big Ten and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, including two-time All-American Vanessa DiBernardo. Last season, DiBernardo led UofI with eight goals and 21 points, and is tied for the team-lead this season with one goal and three points. Freshman Meegan Johnston has also tallied three points, while four other players have tallied one goal for the Illini, who were picked to finish third in the Big Ten preseason. Head coach Janet Rayfield is in her 12th season leading the squad.
Sunday’s match will be the 11th all-time between the in-state rivals. The Redbirds trail the series 2-6-2, but battled the 19th-ranked Illini to a 1-1 draw in front of an Adelaide Street Field-record 1,085 fans last season.
“Illinois is definitely a team that we always look forward to competing against, especially since they are so close by” junior back Gabbi McArtor said. “We are also tied for seventh in the region [according to the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll], so that puts even more on the line, which is exciting to me.”
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