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This Week in Illini Athletics: Sept. 6-12, 2021

Several Illini teams will hit the road this weekend.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 UTSA at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to “This Week in Illini Athletics,” a weekly review of the past week of Illini sports and a preview of the week to come.

FOOTBALL (1-1 Overall, 1-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: After an impressive performance in their season opener, the Illini suffered a disappointing loss at the hands of the UTSA Roadrunners on Saturday. UTSA got out to a commanding 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, but the Fighting Illini fought back. Illinois narrowed the lead to three points multiple times, but it could never quite get over the hump and tie or take the lead. Down seven, the Illini got the ball back at their own 35 yard line with 1:31 left in the game and no timeouts, but a brilliant drive moved the ball all the way to the UTSA 15. After an offensive pass interference penalty moved Illinois back to the 30 yard line, it had one last attempt at a Hail Mary to send the game to overtime, but Art Sitkowski’s pass sailed just out of the back of the endzone.

This Week: Illinois looks to bounce back this week when it visits Virginia for a 10 a.m. kick on Saturday.

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL (3-2 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: The Illini dropped a pair of matches to #11 Washington and Colorado in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge this weekend. On Friday night, Washington opened the match strong, taking the first set 25-15. But from then on, Illinois hung tough and played the Huskies close, even winning the marathon of a third set 32-30. It would not be enough, however, as Washington took the match in four sets. On Saturday, the Illini once again found themselves at an early deficit, as Colorado took the first two sets of the match. But Illinois battled back to take the next two sets before ultimately losing a thrilling fifth set 18-16.

This Week: Illinois hopes to get back on track this weekend as it travels to Creighton where it will play three matches in the Bluejay Invitational: against Omaha at 10:30 a.m. and SMU at 7 p.m. on Friday, and against Creighton on Saturday morning at 10:30.

WOMEN’S SOCCER (2-3 Overall, 0-0 Big Ten)

Last Week: A loss to Xavier on Thursday marked Illinois’ third straight loss, but the Illini didn’t go down without a fight. After falling behind early, the Illini came out of the gates quickly in the second half with a goal from Makena Silber to tie the game at one. Unfortunately, the tie didn’t last for long, as Xavier answered back with a goal of its own under a minute later. Illinois scratched and clawed to get back in the game with nine shots in the final 40 minutes, but none of them found the back of the net and Illinois was never able to equalize.

This Week: The Illini finish off the non-conference season with a road trip to Ohio to face a pair of MAC opponents. Illinois plays Bowling Green on Thursday night at 7, and it finishes the weekend at Toledo at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

MEN’S and WOMEN’S CROSS COUNTRY

Last Week: Both Illini cross country teams finished runners-up to the hosting Eastern Illinois in the five-team Walt Crawford Open. Freshman Maggie Gamboa led the way for the Illini women with a second-place finish, and Sophomore Eddie Lennon placed fifth to pace the Illini men. Illinois (both the men and the women) likely could have finished higher, but it used the meet as an opportunity to get underclassmen into a real competition. The men’s team did not run any of its top four returnees, the women’s team did not run any of its top six, and only one upperclassman ran between the two teams.

This Week: The Illini get a week off before both teams travel to Illinois State’s Redbird Invite in Normal on Friday the 17th.

MEN’S GOLF

Last Week: After day one and two rounds of the 15-team Hoosier Collegiate Invitational, Illinois is in second place at +5, two strokes behind Cincinnati. Senior Tommy Kuhl carded a 139 (-3) to lead the Illini in two rounds on Sunday, and he finished the day alone in second place, trailing the leading Ty Gingerich of Cincinnati by one stroke.

This Week: The Illini finish the Hoosier Collegiate Invitational today and then get a week off before hosting the Fighting Illini Invitational from September 17-19.