Valley Play Begins Friday Night at Indiana State
Oct. 3, 2013
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."
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