Redbirds Host Evansville on Senior and Heidecke Day, Sunday

Oct. 19, 2013

Week 9: Illinois state vs. evansville
Date: Oct. 20
Time: 1 p.m. CT
Location: Normal, Ill. (Adelaide Street Field)
Game Notes: Illinois State
Listen: (Casey Richards | Play-by-Play) - WZND 103.3 FM - AudioNow (213-493-0196)
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter: @ISU_Soccer

NORMAL, Ill. - Winners of four-straight matches, the Illinois State soccer team (9-6-0, 3-0-0 Missouri Valley Conference) puts its unbeaten Valley record and first-place position on the line against defending MVC regular-season champion Evansville (9-3-2, 2-1-1 MVC), Sunday at 1 p.m., at Adelaide Street Field.

Sunday's match will be the second of the week for the Redbirds, who won at Northern Iowa, 5-0, Thursday evening. The five goals were a season-high for ISU, which entered Thursday's match with just three goals combined in its first two MVC games. Head coach Drew Roff hopes that the offensive onslaught was a sign of things to come moving forward for his talented squad.

"We have a lot of weapons," Roff said following Thursday's win. "Getting them all to play together and bringing it on the same day is what our goal was. I thought today was a great start, and hopefully they continue to do that."

Surrounding Sunday's match will be a pair of annual ceremonies. First, the Redbirds' three seniors - Kyla Cross, Allie Newsom and Anna Stinson - will be recognized before the match for their contributions to the program. The group has won 44 games during their time at ISU, which is four wins shy of surpassing last year's group as the winningest class in Roff's tenure.

Following the game, players, coaches and fans will gather to honor former Redbird player Julie Heidecke, who passed away in an automobile accident in 1998. In her one season with the Redbirds, Heidecke's personality and demeanor inspired teammates and coaches. As a result, former head coach Pete Kowall, the Julie Heidecke Foundation and ISU Athletics established an award in her memory to recognize a Redbird soccer player following Heidecke's path in commitment, spirit, determination, leadership, sportsmanship, academics, morality and concern for others. Now in its 16th year, the award will be presented following Sunday's match in front of the Julie Heidecke Tribute Tree, which is at the entrance of Adelaide Street Field.

"Sunday is a day where we want to celebrate our seniors and the life of Julie Heidecke, who is an important part of our program," Roff said. "Our players always seem to step up and play with a little extra energy and determination on this day."

Scouting the Purple Aces

The Purple Aces have built upon their surprise MVC regular-season title in 2012 with the best overall record in the Valley, entering Sunday's match at 9-3-2 overall. However, UE is winless in its last two matches, dropping to 2-1-1 in MVC action with a 1-0 loss at Indiana State, Wednesday.

Leading Evansville this season has been a stingy defense that has surrendered just eight goals all year. The unit is anchored by junior Taylor Brand, who was an All-MVC Second Team selection last season and has been named the MVC Defensive Player of the Week five times this year. Sophomore goalkeeper Simone Busby has been vital to UE allowing a league-best 0.57 goals per game, as the 2012 MVC Goalkeeper of the Year has posted a .864 saves percentage.

UE has been solid offensively as well, scoring 1.43 goals per game, but will be without two of its main offensive weapons. Sophomore Kayla Smith, who leads the team with 14 points, five goals and four assists, is out for the season after tearing her ACL Oct. 12 at Missouri State. The Purple Aces are also expected to be without second-leading scorer Lauren Tiernan, who has tallied eight points on three goals and two assists. As a result, sophomore Abby Springer (3 G, A) and senior Stephanie Thompson (3 G) will be called upon to shoulder more of the offensive load.

The Redbirds lead the all-time series against the Purple Aces, 10-7-3. UE won the most-recent meeting, beating ISU 4-1 last season, in what matched the largest Valley loss during Roff's tenure.

"They lost the other night, but they will be ready to bounce back strong like all good teams do," Roff said of the Purple Aces. "They are one of the teams in the league that does combine a stingy defense with some dangerous attacking players. As we saw last year, if you give them some time and space, they can hurt you."

Quick Kicks

  • TEJADA CONTINUES TO SHINE: Most recently tallying five points (2 G, A) in Thursday's win at UNI, 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 eight of the last 11, including six-straight games from Sept. 6-Sept. 22. She leads the league in points (28) and goals (11), and is ranked in the top-40 nationally in those categories. She is the program's all-time assists leader with 25, and is one point shy of equaling the all-time points mark of 126.
  • VALLEY SUCCESS: With Thursday's win over UNI, seventh-year Illinois State head coach Drew Roff improved his record against MVC opponents to 29-7-3 (.782). Dating back to last season, the Redbirds have won eight-straight matches against Valley teams, with their last loss coming 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 the remainder of 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 11 matches, never allowing more than two goals during the 8-3 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 1.59 entering Sunday's match. Back Gabbi McArtor has each played every minute of those 11 games, while Abby Van Deventer has gone the distance in 10-straight.
  • SPREADING THE WEALTH: Illinois State's 32 goals and 2.13 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 four points, which are both 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 a career-high seven assists, to go along with three goals. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, Weisbecker Scholarship Fund gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.