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Illini Soccer opens season with win over Purdue

Makenna Silber’s 81st minute goal proves to be the only tally of the match.


It’s not surprising that a match between the teams picked 10th and 11th in the Big Ten preseason poll would be close, particularly at a neutral site like the indoor facility at Westfield, IN’s Great Park. What is surprising is that a defense that is almost entirely new and a goalkeeper who has played less than 15 minutes total in her career would put up a clean sheet.

Both defenses came to play in the first half. Neither side could really find any muster in their attack early. A promising attack for the Boilermakers was halted by an offside call in the 17th minute. Makenna Silber got behind the defense and force a spectacular save out of Purdue keeper Marisa Bova in the 37th minute. Otherwise, the teams played to a stalemate, only firing two shots each.

The second half resulted in more attacking prowess for both sides. A pair of corner kicks in the 57th minute for the Illini resulted in a shot for Makenna Silber that was parried away by Bova and a clean header by Henar Urteaga that fizzed over the bar. Purdue was more dangerous going forward too, launching 10 shots towards Sami Sample’s goal, 3 of which required her intervention.

The breakthrough came on a broken play. Maggie Hillman lobbed a shot toward the back post (maybe a cross for Kendra Pasquale?) that actually found the back post. It caromed to Sibler in front of an open goal who made no mistake and put the Illini ahead. From there, the Illini locked things down, preventing Purdue from even taking a shot for the rest of the match to see out the victory 1-0.

A couple things:

  • Maggie Hillman: Agent of Chaos. If you would’ve told me going into this game that one Illini player would sort of shoot sort of towards the back post where it would deflect to the feet of another Illini player, I would’ve said without a doubt that Hillman was on one end of that play. I mean this in a good way: When Hillman is on the pitch, she makes the probability of something exceptionally stupid happening increase tenfold.
  • Let’s hear it for the defense! The three defenders I’m certain were defenders were Joanna Verzosa-Dolezal, Aleah Treiterer, and Ashley Cathro. Kendra Pasquale also might’ve been a fullback, but I don’t know (Why didn’t you know, Alex? Oh, we’ll get to that.). 4-back or 3-back formation, they did their jobs. Purdue fired 12 shots, but only 4 were on target which either means their accuracy was a bit off or the defense didn’t let them get good looks. Those 4 that were on target, Sample didn’t let in. Sure, Sample’s a senior, but that back line is freshman-sophomore-redshirt sophomore or freshman-sophomore-redshirt sophomore-redshirt sophomore. The future is bright.
  • I’m a bit confused by the substitution patterns? Mainly the starting lineup with Silber and Meredith Johnson-Monfort as forwards. Like, size is good up front, but one of Silber and MJM should suffice, and it’s nice to have some little speedster play off that size. Also, one little speedster should suffice. That’s a bit why I’m confused why Summer Garrison and Katie Le were the forwards (I think) midway through the second half. Also, why did Julia Eichenbaum get only 6 minutes? How did Haley Singer get 21 minutes? I did like the role she was in, which was Maggie Hillman’s backup, but I don’t understand why she got playing time over a couple of other options. Either some players have improved or regressed in the past 3 months, the coaches are holding some cards, or I’m an idiot. All three are equally possible.
  • It’s shocking that in the year of our Lord 2021 there’s no way to watch a Big Ten competition remotely. Like, I get there’s a cost for a full production and getting people in a place is difficult during a pandemic, but the people who aren’t there don’t ask for much. I’ve watched US Open Cup matches that I think were recorded on a camcorder, the tape put in a VCR, and then they used a laptop webcam pointed at an old CRT tv to get it to the idiot diehards like me. I’ve watched Hawaii football games at 1 in the morning that a Rainbow Warriors fan Periscoped from his seat in the 18th row at Aloha Stadium. Shoot, the home crowds for early evening Illini soccer matches have looked straight into the sun for what, the past 21 years? I don’t ask for much.

Now, I get that the people who care about Illini soccer are few and far between and that there might be some contract issues with BTN with doing a janky live stream of a non-revenue sport. But I can tell you, it sucks not to be able to support our team in person. It sucks then that you have to rely on a stats feed to keep up them, which is a horrible way to follow any sport but soccer especially. It sucks when that live feed isn’t updated until halftime, so you have to go to Twitter to get updates. It sucks that your own team’s Twitter feed also isn’t updated until halftime, so you have to go to the opposing team’s Twitter account to get whatever updates you can get.

I’m just saying, if anything like this happened with the football or men’s basketball team these days, there would be a riot. The athletic department should be thankful that Illini soccer fans are a little more patient.