Redbirds Go for Outright Valley Title Against Drake, Sunday

Oct. 26, 2013

Week 10: Illinois state vs. drake
Date: Oct. 27
Time: 1 p.m. CT
Location: Normal, Ill. (Adelaide Street Field)
Game Notes: Illinois State
Listen: GoRedbirds.com (Casey Richards | Play-by-Play) - WZND 103.3 FM - AudioNow (213-493-0196)
Live Stats: GameTracker
Twitter: @ISU_Soccer

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.”

Quick Kicks

  • TEJADA CONTINUES TO SHINE: Most recently being named MVC Offensive POTW for the third time this season, two-time MVC Player of Year Rachel Tejada finds herself atop the league’s leaderboards again. She leads the league in points (31), goals (12) and assists, and is ranked 15th, 15th and 55th nationally in those categories. She is the program’s all-time assists (26) and points (128) leader, and is five points shy of eclipsing the all-time Valley mark.
  • VALLEY SUCCESS: With Sunday’s win over Evansville, seventh-year Illinois State head coach Drew Roff improved his record against MVC opponents to 30-7-3 (.788). Dating back to last season, the Redbirds have won nine-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.
  • DOMINATING “D”: The Redbird defense has posted three-straight shutouts, and clean sheets in four of its last five games overall. Backs Gabbi McArtor, Rhianna Krutz and Abby Van Deventer have played all 90 minutes in the last three shutouts, while goalkeeper Aryn Newsom has made seven saves. ISU has allowed just one goal in MVC play, tops in the conference.
  • SPREADING THE WEALTH: Illinois State’s 36 goals and 2.25 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 12 have recorded at least one point, 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 four goals.
  • SOMETHING ABOUT THE FALL AIR: The Redbirds are currently a perfect 4-0 in the month of October. This continues the trend of head coach Drew Roff’s teams peaking towards the end of the season, as his seven Redbird squads have combined to go 34-6-3 (.826) in October.

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