Sunday afternoon was supposed to be a great day for IU women’s soccer.
The Hoosiers were expected to find their groove offensively against an Illinois team riding a seven-game losing streak and winless in the Big Ten Conference entering the match.
The match had all the makings for a momentum-boosting win for IU, but Illinois had other plans, defeating the Hoosiers, 3-1, behind a sturdy defensive performance.
“I think we’ve got to come together as a group,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “We’ve taken a couple bruises and cuts from different players at different spots, but at the end of the day, we have to pay attention to details. I think that’s something we let get away from us today.”
In the first half, it was a balanced match as both teams were trying to find their offensive footing. Illinois was controlling play, but IU kept playing aggressive defense.
The first goal of the game came from Fighting Illini senior forward Kara Marbury, who snuck the ball into the bottom corner of the net from a crowded box in the 26th minute.
IU’s first shot on goal didn’t come until the 36th minute, but it landed right in the hands of Illinois sophomore goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham.
“We were very sloppy in the first half, just couldn’t get ahold of the ball,” Berbary said. “Illinois is a good team. We knew that coming in and watched film. We knew they were going to knock somebody off, and we just didn’t want it to be us. So, shame on us. I thought we put together a pretty good second half, but to come back from behind is very difficult in this league.”
For the most part of the second half, it was more of the same for the Hoosiers. They played better offensively, but couldn’t convert on four corners and hardly challenged Illinois defensively.
There was still hope for the Hoosiers to equalize, but a defensive mistake from Kopel allowed Illinois to put the game away. Kopel came out of her net to help the defense, but that allowed sophomore forward Kelly Maday to score from a cross to give the Fighting Illini a 2-0 lead in 82nd minute.
IU’s chances looked bleak after the second score, but Illinois officially put the game out of reach after Marbury scored her second goal of the game on a 23-yard in the 87th minute.
The lone positive offensive performance from the Hoosiers came from junior forward Mykayla Brown after she flicked in a goal after sophomore midfielder Chandra Davidson crossed it to her from the right side with one minute left in the game.
“We definitely needed more energy," Brown said. "We just need to believe that we can play with any team and fight all the way through to the end."
Despite going 0-2-1 in its home stretch, IU will be back on the road next week to take on Minnesota and Wisconsin.
So far this season, the Hoosiers have played their best games of the season away from Bill Armstrong Stadium. They’ll need to continue that road success if they hope to stay in the hunt for a Big Ten Tournament bid.
“We have a huge opportunity; our league is so good,” Berbary said. “We just have to wash this one away and get better.”
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