Valley Play Begins Friday Night at Indiana State

Oct. 3, 2013

Week 7: Illinois state at indiana state
Date: Oct. 4
Time: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Terre Haute, Ind. (Memorial Stadium)
Game Notes: Illinois State
Listen: GoRedbirds.com (Casey Richards | Play-by-Play) - AudioNow (213-493-0196)
Live Stats: GoSycamores.com
Twitter: @ISU_Soccer

NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State soccer team (6-6-0, 0-0-0 MVC) opens Missouri Valley Conference play when it travels to Indiana State (4-7-0, 0-1-0 MVC), Friday. Kickoff in Terre Haute, Ind., is slated for 6 p.m., CT.

It was an up-and-down non-conference slate for the Redbirds, who defeated IPFW, 4-0, in their last match to get back to .500. While the 6-6 mark is the worst for ISU in non-conference play since 2008, five of those losses came against power conference teams (three Big Ten, two Big 12), with the Redbirds also notching victories against Big 12 foe TCU and BIG EAST opponent No. 22 Marquette. Head coach Drew Roff believes the challenging slate his team played has it prepared for MVC action.

"As we tell the players, if you're not excited about this week, something is wrong," Roff said. "We've been through a real tough schedule, and the first segment of the season is about figuring out how you want to play. Now, we know who plays where and all of that. All the stuff that takes place up to this point is to get us ready for these games."

"My favorite time of the year is these next few weeks," Roff added. "The great competition of the Valley, and hopefully some postseason action, is what we train for. We're very excited."

The Redbirds will be seeking their first MVC regular-season conference title since 2011, and ninth overall. With only six Valley games, senior Anna Stinson and her teammates realize how crucial each match is to achieving a conference title, beginning with a positive first step.

"Every game in our conference is so important, because there are not very many teams," Stinson said. "I think it is so important to get the first one done and set the tone for the rest of the conference matches. We've talked as a team and with Coach Roff about making this the best season we've ever had. Starting off strong in the first game is really important for that."

Scouting the Sycamores

The Sycamores enter Friday's match 4-7-0 overall and 0-1-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference, after dropping their league-opener to Loyola, 2-1 on Friday, before bouncing back with a 2-0 win over IPFW on Sunday. The Sycamores have been impressive offensively, as they sit tied with Evansville for second in the Valley with 18 goals scored and 1.64 goals-per-game. Eleven of those goals have been scored by the combination of sophomore Kate Johnson and freshman Abby Reed. Johnson is second in the conference with seven goals and 16 points, while Reed has scored four times, including twice in the Sycamores' 3-2 loss at Illinois, Sept. 13.

A main area of concern coming into the season for the Sycamores was defense, as four back line starters and their starting goalkeeper graduated. Indiana State has been able to find replacements, however, as they enter the match allowing a respectable 1.64 goals-per-game. Two-time All-MVC Honorable Mention selection Shelby Troyer anchors the back line. The Sycamores have rotated two freshmen keepers throughout the season, Brittany San Roman and Abby Keller. San Roman has seen more playing time, but Keller has the better statistics. Keller is the reigning MVC Goalkeeper of the Week, after shutting out the Mastodons in Sunday's victory.

Illinois State leads the all-time series between the two teams, 14-3, and has won six-straight matches by a combined 26-8 score. The Redbirds and Sycamores met twice last year, with the Redbirds taking both games. Illinois State and Kyla Cross set single-game program-records with nine and four goals, respectively, in a 9-2 regular-season win. Then, the Redbirds defeated the Sycamores in the MVC Tournament title match, 5-1.

"Indiana State has been taking steps lately, from what I've seen," Roff said. "They are recruiting well and getting some good talent there. We know that they will be very motivated to play at home, and we are expecting a great match. Every year is a little bit different, so you try not to focus too much on what happened in the past."

Quick Kicks

  • TEJADA CONTINUES TO SHINE: After leading the league in points and goals in her first two seasons en route to MVC Player of the Year honors, junior Rachel Tejada finds herself atop the league's leaderboards again. After going goalless in the Redbirds' first four matches, Tejada has scored in seven of their next eight, including six-straight games from Sept. 6-Sept. 22. She leads the league in points (23) and goals (nine), and is ranked 13th and 19th nationally in those categories.
  • VALLEY SUCCESS: Now in his seventh year at the helm, head coach Drew Roff has led his Redbird teams to a staggering 26-7-3 (.764) record in MVC games. Roff's Redbirds have gone 4-2 in MVC openers during his tenure, dropping last year's first league game at Evansville, 4-1.
  • BATTLE TESTED: While Illinois State's 6-6 non-conference record is its worst since the 2008 squad went 6-7-1, the Redbirds will look to draw upon their tough non-conference slate moving into Valley play. The Redbirds went 2-5 against teams from high-major conferences (wins over TCU and No. 22 Marquette) and 2-3 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2012 (wins over Miami (Ohio) and No. 22 Marquette).
  • "D" TAKES SHAPE: After surrendering a combined 13 goals during a three-game losing streak from Aug. 25 through Sept. 1, the ISU defense has stiffened in its last eight matches, never allowing more than two goals during the 5-3 stretch. Goalkeeper Aryn Newsom has been solid as the last line of defense, as her goals-against average has dropped from 3.86 on Sept. 1 to 1.94 entering the week. Backs Alyse Williams and Gabbi McArtor have each played every minute of those eight games, while Abby Van Deventer has gone the distance in seven-straight.
  • SPREADING THE WEALTH: Illinois State's 24 goals and 2.00 goals-per-game are tops in the Valley, thanks in large part to a diverse offensive attack. Nine Redbirds have scored at least one goal and 10 have recorded at least two points, which are both tied with Loyola for most in the MVC
  • "CROSS"ING THE COMPETITION: Known more for her goal-scoring abilities coming into 2013 (eight in each of the past two seasons), senior forward Kyla Cross has assumed more of a playmaker role this season. Cross leads the Valley with six assists, which matches her career-high set as a sophomore in 2011, to go along with two goals. She ranks 28th nationally with the six assists.

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