Ten matches into the 2016 season, Illinois State soccer had a total of 13 goals just as Missouri Valley Conference play was beginning.
After Saturday’s 1-0 loss in overtime at Northern Iowa (8-1-1, 1-0), the Redbirds (3-5-2, 0-1) have only five goals ten matches into the 2017 campaign. That tally is the lowest in the eight-team conference. The next three-lowest are Drake, Evansville and Valparaiso with 14 apiece.
“We cannot score goals,” ISU coach Brad Silvey said. “We will not win games if we don’t score goals.”
In ISU’s first loss to a conference opponent since falling to Loyola 2-1 in the opening round of the 2015 Missouri Valley Conference tournament, junior Brynell Yount broke the scoreless tie at 90:53 in overtime with her fifth goal of the season to give the Panthers the win.
Throughout the match, ISU had multiple chances to get on the scoreboard. Despite getting 12 shots off, however, only three made it on goal for the Redbirds. Freshman Ashley Santos led the team with three shots in the match, with one of them being on goal.
“We are creating ample opportunities, chances, half-chances, great services into the box, breaking pressure in every single line,” Silvey said. “Doing absolutely everything right until we get into our finishing phase. And, for some reason, there is a disconnect right now within our ability to put the ball in the back of the net.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Haley Smith, who was coming off her second MVC Defensive Player of the Week honor of the season, kept ISU in the match with six saves. The Panthers would beat Smith on their seventh shot on goal.
After ISU freshman Natalie Vaughn-Low’s shot was saved by Northern Iowa junior goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger 19 seconds into overtime, the Panthers marched right down the field before Yount scored 34 seconds later to end the match.
Throughout the year, the Redbirds have struggled to find a consistent goal scorer. Both junior Angel Krell and freshman Sarah Lafayette share the team lead in goals with two each. Senior Kelli Zickert has the only other goal for the team this season.
Only once this season has ISU scored more than one goal in a match, which came on Aug. 27 when they beat Illinois 2-0. With the team getting another three non-conference matches before their next MVC opponent, the Redbirds continue to search for that spark to get the offense going.
“There is definitely going to be a centralized effort moving forward to improve in this category,” Silvey said. “And if certain individuals that we are leaning on right now continue to not do the job, then we’re going to look for alternative options.”
For its next match, ISU hosts Missouri-Kansas City at 7 p.m. on Friday at Adelaide Street Field.