The wind only picked up and temperatures only dropped as Sunday dragged on. With speeds up to 21 mph and "feels like" estimates below 30 degrees, the Michigan State (1-7-1) and Illinois (5-4-1) women's soccer teams were in for a brutal case of frostbite.
The first 45 minutes of the game were very back and forth, slow paced, not a single goal scored, with lots of nasty spills from trips, collisions and shoves and several yellow cards waved.
That is, until the clock ticked down to the five minute mark. That's when Illinois' sophomore defender Aleah Treiterer passed the ball to her teammate, sophomore midfielder Eileen Murphy, and the few fans in attendance went ballistic. Blurs of orange rushed to the MSU net in celebration as the scoreboard went from 0-0 to 1-0.
Illinois had the lead and MSU was left in the dust, for the seventh consecutive game. They went into halftime with a disappointed slouch in their shoulders and there didn't seem to be any hope, even with another 45 minutes to go.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Kozal managed a good barrier for the Spartans' defense. Head coach Tom Saxton commended her post game.
Junior forward Camryn Evans was a prominent face on the field, until the 76 minute mark, when she fell into some sort of split stretch and had to be escorted to the bench. She contributed two of MSU's eight total shots.
Freshman defender Zivana Labovic spent a lot of the full 90 minutes with the referees on her back, collecting the most fouls of the night at four. However, she was also the only athlete to score a goal and she was one of MSU's two total shots on goal, the other coming from junior forward Gia Wahlberg.
It was at 11:51 left in the second half when Labovic's shot hit the net. The last time MSU scored in a game dates back to March 12, when the Spartans took on their in-state rival Michigan and fell 7-3.
"We got on the board, which was nice," Saxton said. "We've been putting a lot into these games and not coming away with any results in terms of goals."
Nonetheless, the new 1-1 tie was short-lived. Illinois responded almost immediately. Redshirt sophomore defender Kendra Pasquale passed the ball to her teammate, junior forward Makena Silber, and MSU's already slim chance at snapping their losing streak went with the breeze.
Another heartbreak for MSU: the Spartans had fallen 2-1 to the Fighting Illini. Faces were red, and whether that was from windburn or emotions or both, who knows. The girls shed tears and shared hugs as they left the field in search of their family members or friends who had come out to support them.
Saxton said one thing the team really needs to nail in for this coming week is — when they come into possession of the ball, those transition moments — to keep the possession in the pass. He said they'd be in better business if they put in a little patience and connection. He does get it though because sometimes rush decisions are all you have.
The Spartans are scheduled to hit the road and head to Bloomington on Wednesday, March 31, for their second faceoff with Indiana (5-4-0) this season. After that, they only have one game left.
Share and discuss “MSU women's soccer 2-1 loss to Illinois lengthens losing streak” on social media.