As the heat settles into the dog days of summer, the Illinois State soccer team looks to heat up with it.
Starting the season against Iowa in an exhibition game Aug. 12, the Hawkeyes present an intriguing initial challenge for the Redbirds.
Finishing 9-8-2, including an 8-1 win over Southern Utah, Iowa finished right around ISU’s record of 9-9-2. While it is only an exhibition game, this is the Redbird’s first opportunity to display their improvement.
Iowa junior Devin Burns will seem to bring the biggest test to ISU in this contest. She was selected as Iowa’s offensive player of the year, and for good reason. She led the team by scoring nine goals and also distributing five assists.
The Redbirds then play two more home games against Cal State- Northridge Aug. 16 and Eastern Michigan Aug. 19.
Cal State Northridge finished their season 9-4-8. Many of their matches were close — 14 of them either being ties or 1-goal differences.
They played two ranked opponents, No. 24 Long Beach State as well as No. 16 Colorado. CSUN ended up tying LBS 1-1, and held Colorado to a 0-0 stalemate.
CSUN plays in the Big West conference and in their tournament last season, they played their last game against Cal State Fullerton, losing in penalty kicks 4-3.
Marissa Favela was CSUN’s leading scorer last season. Cynthia Sanchez trailed her by only one goal, scoring six goals in total. The pair combined for 54 shots last season, a whopping 46 percent of the team’s total.
Both of these players had SOG percentages near .500. Sanchez is no longer with the team, so it will be interesting to see who picks up her workload on the offense as far as shooting goes.
Eastern Michigan had the worst record of Illinois State’s upcoming matches at 7-12-1.
Their 1-9 road record from last season bodes well for the’Birds as they tied 1-1 last season in double overtime. Central Michigan fell to Eastern Michigan at its last game, losing 1-4.
Peyton Davis led EMU with 5 goals in 2017. The offense struggled as they only had a shooting percentage of .086 as a team. Their average opponent generated a percentage of .120.
On the bright side, the squad did manage to have a composite SOG percentage of .469. They will get their opportunities, but they have to capitalize to improve from last season.
These games will not decide the Redbirds’ season by any means. However, the contests are a good look into what the team has changed, and what adjustments will have to be made later on.
Brad Silvey will coach the Redbirds alongside assistants Scott Myers, Sarah Thompkins and volunteer assistant Coleman Childers. The new graduate assistant will be Lauri Riddell.
In October, the ‘Birds are slated to play MVC opponents Valparaiso, Loyola-Chicago, Indiana State, Evansville and the University of Northern Iowa.
The regular season is set to conclude at home Oct. 25 as the Redbirds look to conquer Northern Iowa in a rematch of last year’s final game.