Redbirds Vie for Fourth-Straight Win at UNI, Thursday

Oct. 16, 2013

Week 9: Illinois state at Northern Iowa
Date: Oct. 17
Time: 4 p.m. CT
Location: Waterloo, Iowa (Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Complex)
Game Notes: Illinois State
Twitter: @ISU_Soccer

NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State soccer team (8-6-0, 2-0-0 MVC) travels to Northern Iowa (2-12-0, 1-2-0 MVC), Thursday, to take on the Panthers in Missouri Valley Conference action. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m., at the Cedar Valley Youth Soccer Complex in Waterloo, Iowa.

After Sunday's 1-0 victory over Loyola, the Redbirds have won three-straight matches, including their first two Valley games, to move a season-best two games above .500. ISU currently sits third in the MVC standings, one point behind Evansville and Missouri State. With Thursday's match against the Panthers and one Sunday at home against the Purple Aces, head coach Drew Roff expects to know more about how his team stacks up compared to the rest of the league following this weekend.

"After these two matches, we should start to see a clearer picture," Roff said. "Right now, with only having played a couple games, everybody is pretty close to each other. This is a big week for our conference title hopes, so we are just focusing on preparing and bringing our best."

Leading ISU during its three-game winning streak has been the defense, as the Redbirds have allowed just one goal and posted two shutouts in their last three matches. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Aryn Newsom has seen her goals-against average drop from 3.86 on Sept. 1 to 1.71 heading in to Thursday's match, due in large part to the defense tightening up in front of her.

"Talking, and then organization," Newsom highlighted as keys to the defensive turnaround. "All the coaches have done a really good job working with the defense by themselves to help us get organized and know what to do in certain situations."

Scouting the Panthers

The Panthers come into Thursday's match riding some momentum, as they won at Drake, 1-0, in their most recent match to snap a 10-game losing streak. Six of those losses were only by one goal, and three came in overtime, including a 2-1 OT loss against first-place Evansville, Oct. 6.

After being shutout five times in their first 10 games, the UNI offense has shown signs of life as of late, as the Panthers have scored one goal in each of their past four matches. The offensive production has been balanced, as three players - Brady Clark (1 G, 2 A), Annie Dale (2 G) and Maddie Welch (2 G) are all tied for the team-lead with four points, with each goal for the latter two coming in the last four games.

The Panthers returned nine starters from last year's team that went 8-9-3, the majority of whom play defense. However, injuries have wreaked havoc on a unit that was initially expected to be a strength. Second-team All-MVC selection Allie Brees has played in just nine games, but should be in the lineup against ISU. While it was Erin Zaideman who saw the majority of action in goal for the Panthers last season, senior Nicole Postel has served as the primary keeper this year. Postel has recorded a 1.64 goals-against average and two shutouts.

Illinois State holds a 10-3 lead in the all-time series, but it is the Panthers who have had the upper hand as of late. Two of UNI's three all-time wins over ISU have come in the last three years, including a 2-1 victory at Adelaide Street Field in the 2012 meeting.

"This week in general is huge," Roff said. "We had that little break there without a game, and now we basically have three games in seven days this week. The Northern Iowa game is big. They are coming off a big win against Drake, and they are a team that had success against us last year. We need to be ready for that."

Quick Kicks

  • TEJADA CONTINUES TO SHINE: Although she has been held without a point in the last two games, two-time MVC Player of Year 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 the last 10, including six-straight games from Sept. 6-Sept. 22. She leads the league in points (23) and goals (nine), and is ranked 36th and 42nd nationally in those categories.
  • VALLEY SUCCESS: With Sunday's win over Loyola, seventh-year Illinois State head coach Drew Roff improved his record against MVC opponents to 28-7-3 (.776). Dating back to last season, the Redbirds have won seven-straight matches against Valley teams. Their last loss came to Thursday's opponent, Northern Iowa, more than a calendar year ago (Oct. 10, 2012).
  • BATTLE TESTED: With the regular-season approaching its conclusion, the Redbirds are hoping a tough non-conference schedule will pay dividends in MVC play and the MVC Tournament. The Redbirds went 2-3 against teams that made the 2012 NCAA Tournament, notching wins over Miami (Ohio) and No. 22 Marquette, and 2-5 against "power conference" teams, adding a win against TCU to the triumph over MU.
  • "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 nine matches, never allowing more than two goals during the 7-3 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 1.71 entering the week. Back Gabbi McArtor has each played every minute of those 10 games, while Abby Van Deventer has gone the distance in nine-straight.
  • SPREADING THE WEALTH: Illinois State's 27 goals and 1.93 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 ability 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 33rd nationally with the six assists.

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