Redbirds Go for Outright Valley Title Against Drake, Sunday
Oct. 26, 2013
NORMAL, Ill. - Already guaranteed at least a share of the title and the conference tournament’s top seed, the Illinois State soccer team (10-6-0, 4-0-0 MVC) can clinch the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship outright with a draw or victory against Drake (3-9-4, 1-2-1 MVC), Sunday at 1 p.m., at Adelaide Street Field. The match is the final home game of the season for the Redbirds, and second to last regular-season contest.
Indiana State’s win on Friday over Missouri State eliminated the Bears from title contention, leaving only the Sycamores (3-2 MVC mark) a chance to catch the Redbirds. While the Redbirds hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Sycamores, guaranteeing them the top seed in the MVC Tournament, head coach Drew Roff and his squad don’t view the title as complete until it is just them atop the standings.
“Winning the regular season is a great accomplishment, because it is something you accomplish over many more games than the tournament,” Roff said. “Last year, we didn’t win the regular season title, so it’s something that our players want to get. We are focused on Drake and focused on playing as well as we can.”
Scouting the Bulldogs
Coming off a third-place MVC finish in 2012 and returning 10 of 11 starters, the Bulldogs were picked second in the Valley preseason poll. However, DU enters Sunday’s match in fifth place after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Loyola.
Offense has been difficult to come by this season for the Bulldogs, who have scored one goal in Valley play and two in their last six games. Senior Paige Dusek leads the team with 12 points, and is tied for the team lead with five goals and two assists. Freshman Rebecca Rodgers has scored five times as well, while junior Ashlie Stokes, who led DU with seven goals last year, has found the back of the net three times.
While DU has struggled to score in Valley play, it has also been stout defensively, only surrendering two goals in four MVC contests. Junior Andrea Swanson has played every minute in goal this year for the Bulldogs and has posted a 1.41 goals-against average and three shutouts. Senior Megan Fisher, a unanimous All-MVC preseason selection and All-MVC First Team choice last year, anchors a back line that returned four starters from last year’s team.
The Redbirds lead the all-time series with the Bulldogs, 8-5-2. After going winless in the series’ first seven matches dating back to 2002, ISU has won eight-straight against DU, including last year’s 2-1 victory in Des Moines.
“They were picked up there for a reason,” Roff said. “People saw they had a lot of returners from a very successful team last season. We understand that every game in the Missouri Valley Conference is difficult. They are a very stingy defensive team, and they have talent. We can’t really worry about their previous results. It’s about showing up on that day.”
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