Illinois State soccer may have had a two-game winning streak heading into Wednesday night’s match against Illinois-Chicago, but the team was still searching for a way to score more goals.
Leave it to the seniors, particularly Emily Dickman and Kelli Zickert, to help solve the problem for the Redbirds on senior night.
Two goals by Dickman, along with a goal by Zickert and sophomore Mikayla Unger, gave ISU (6-5-2, 0-1) a 4-1 win over UIC (3-11) at Adelaide Street Field. The four goals scored by the Redbirds are a new season-high for the team, doubling their previous best of two against Illinois back on Aug. 27.
“What we told our team tonight is that tonight needed to be convincing,” ISU coach Brad Silvey said. “And we told them that we wanted to make sure that the league, the conference, our institution, and most importantly ourselves, ... proved and played in a convincing fashion, that all of those people would know that we are here. We are all here, we are all in, and I think [the team] showed it tonight.”
Dickman, who was one of six seniors honored by ISU before the start of the match, began the scoring at 15:52 after beating a UIC defender to the ball heading into the corner, before bringing it back to the net and shooting the ball under the crossbar. It was her first goal of the season.
Like in previous matches this season, ISU struggled to build off an early 1-0 lead, and UIC eventually would take advantage of that in the second half.
After an initial save by senior goalkeeper Vanessa Niestrom, UIC sophomore Tamae Douglas got the ball back after Niestrom lost control of it and scored her second goal of the year at 70:18 to tie the match at one. Less than a minute later, Dickman responded.
Receiving a corner kick from Zickert, Dickman dribbled the ball near the box before shooting it through traffic and past UIC senior goalkeeper Annie DiCanio. After entering the match with no goals on the season, Dickman now had two, giving the Redbirds a 2-1 lead.
“It feels like a lot of weight lifted off our shoulders,” Dickman said about the team scoring four goals in the match. “We’ve been stressing goals, scoring more goals, in practice lately because we work so hard to get to that final phase and just finishing it has been a big emphasis. So finally breaking through and finding the back of the net has just been really nice and I know [it’s] really neat for all of us [the team].”
The corner kick that led to Dickman’s goal came after the Flames kicked the ball out of bounds due to pressure forced by freshman Alix McArthur. Making only her third appearance of the season for the Redbirds, McArthur had one shot on goal in the match and earned praise from Silvey for her effort.
“She is our team’s Rudy,” Silvey said. “That’s what she is. Everybody wants her to play, everybody wants her to get in, she shows up day in, day out, she’s putting in the work, and tonight it absolutely paid off.”
Insurance soon followed for ISU, first with Zickert’s second goal of the season at 78:32. Unger would then cap off the successful night for the Redbirds at 81:30 with her first goal of the year.
ISU now prepares for Saturday’s home match against Evansville in the team’s first game versus a Missouri Valley Conference opponent in two weeks. The Redbirds wrap up the regular season with six straight conference matches before the MVC tournament begins on Friday, Nov. 3.
“This forward momentum, these positive steps forward, are obviously going to allow us to enter back into conference play with our heads held high knowing that we can do some of these things that we’ve been training, that we’ve been talking about, and that they can realistically perform at a tremendous and a high level and get results,” Silvey said.
ISU's match against the Aces starts at 7 p.m. Saturday.