Homestand, Non-Con Road Slate Conclude This Weekend
Sept. 19, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State soccer team (5-4-0) will conclude its four-game homestand against Milwaukee, Friday, before playing its final non-conference road match at Kansas, Sunday. Kickoff with the Panthers is slated for 4 p.m., at Adelaide Street Field, before Sunday's 1 p.m., match with the Jayhawks.
ISU has outscored its opponents during the homestand, 11-3, notching victories over Southeast Missouri State, No. 22 Marquette and Saint Louis. During the Redbirds' struggles earlier this season, head coach Drew Roff knew his team had the talent to turn things around, which is finally beginning to manifest itself.
"We had a great three-game stretch as far as scoring some goals and not giving up many goals," Roff said. "I think our physical and mental toughness to get through the Marquette game, and to play well against Saint Louis with some tired legs, all-in-all make for a really nice stretch that is something we are going to build on."
While the Redbirds have conceded 21 goals this season, 13 of those came in a three-match losing streak from Aug. 25-Sept. 1. Redshirt sophomore center back Alyse Williams, the only Redbird to play every minute of every match, has led a defensive resurgence that has significantly contributed to ISU's turnaround.
"We really focused on defense after the tough losses earlier in the season," Williams said. "Just going back to the basics, with knowing when to step and when to drop, and when to give cover, has been huge. I think getting everyone back on the same page helped us all, and I feel like we've made a huge improvement from those first few games to now."
Scouting the PanthersDespite entering Friday's match at 1-6-1 in 2013, the Panthers are one of the most consistent programs in the Midwest, having won 13-straight Horizon League regular-season titles and made five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances. The Panthers are coming off a 3-0 loss at Wisconsin, Sunday, one of four matches they have played against Big Ten teams. UWM lost five starters from last year's team and has just three seniors, but utilizes upperclassmen in numerous key areas. Junior Krissy Dorre leads the Panthers with four goals and nine points, after leading the conference last year with seven goals. Junior Kelly Lewers has recorded three points and two assists after being named to the All-Horizon League First Team last year. Senior Hannah Kaul anchors the Panthers' back line for second-year head coach Greg Henschel.
ISU and UWM have played 12 times previously, with Milwaukee holding a 3-7-2 advantage. The two teams split a pair of games in 2011, with the Redbirds upsetting the 10th-ranked Panthers in the regular-season, before Milwaukee won a first-round NCAA Tournament match. Although the two teams did not meet last season, Roff knows the challenge UWM will provide.
"We have to be really prepared," Roff said. "They are a team that has a lot of talent, and they are a team who knows how to win games and conference championships year after year. That's the type of team that we enjoy competing against, and I'm sure they are going to bring something that will give us everything we could want."
Scouting the Jayhawks
The Jayhawks enter the weekend 3-4-1 overall and will be looking to end a four-match winless drought and three-game losing streak. During the stretch, KU has only scored once, including being shutout three-consecutive times. The Jayhawks are paced offensively by senior Karoline Castor, who leads the team in points (eight), goals (three) and assists (two). Behind her, Kansas has displayed versatility offensively, as six other players have recorded one goal apiece. Kansas is led by head coach Mark Francis, who in his 15 seasons at the helm has led KU to five NCAA Tournament appearances, most recently in 2011.
ISU is 1-3-0 all-time against Kansas with the lone win coming in 2010. The victory was the program's only one against a Big 12 team until the Redbirds defeated TCU, 2-1, earlier this season.
"We have respect for everybody, but we aren't intimidated by the name of the school or anything like that," Roff said. "We realize that, in this game, you've just got to show up and play. Nothing else matters. The match at Kansas is just another example of us just going to play a game. We have a lot of respect for what they do, and they have had a lot of success in the past. It's going to be another really tough test for us, but we're excited to go down there and once again see where we stand and what we can do.
GoRedbirds.com: Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.