DePaul women’s soccer overcame an early 1-0 deficit to rally past Illinois 3-1 Thursday afternoon at Wish Field to improve to 2-1 on the season.
Illini senior defender Morgan Maroney punched in a goal in the ninth minute for her first one of 2018, which put the Blue Demons in a similar position to their opening matchup on Aug. 16 against SMU. This time around though, freshman goalkeeper Mollie Eriksson cast a new sense of energy just minutes later in the 14th minute when she saved a penalty kick from Illini midfielder Katie Murray.
“It was an adrenaline rush to say the least,” Eriksson said. “Honestly I don’t really remember much of it, like there was so much going on, but I’m just proud of our team. I think that was the start of a new chapter in this game. I think we really turned it around after that.”
Eriksson finished the game with three total saves in comparison to Illinois goalkeeper Jaelyn Cunningham’s lone save. Defending the penalty box contributed to the Blue Demons fighting off the Fighting Illini.
Shortly after Eriksson’s first save, the Blue Demons’ defense recovered quickly. Defenders Adrian Walker, Gwen Walker, Avery Hay, and Sydney Parker worked collectively as a back line to squeeze the space out of Illinois’ potential transition schemes on offense. The Fighting Illini wound up taking seven shots, but didn’t create any type of ball movement after their first and only goal.
“I think defensively we did great today,” senior forward Franny Cerny said. “It’s a cohesive four in the back and I think they’re doing a great job of just working together, and really it’s solidifying the back line.”
Another integral component included in the Blue Demons’ defensive performance was their ability to play 50-50 ball and focus on matchups.
“I think everyone worked really hard to win their 50-50 battles,” DePaul sophomore forward Morgan Turner said.“I think we all won the battles we needed to win, and I think just being really disciplined helped us a lot too.”
Once DePaul’s defense stabilized and gradually picked up momentum as the first half progressed, DePaul’s offense followed suit by finding holes in the Illinois defense. Both Cerny and Turner picked up right where they left off from Sunday’s 7-0 home victory over UMass Lowell, each scoring a goal.
Cerny scored in the 33rd minute of the game, good for her third goal of the year to tie the match at 1-1. Cerny’s goal came by way of the team’s ability to get crosses into the penalty box in order to create scoring opportunities.
“Our game plan was to keep going in line and try to get serves inside, so I went in-line,” Cerny said. “Anytime you serve the box, it’s a dangerous ball. The ball is coming in amongst a bunch of different people.”
Turner’s fourth goal of this season came in the 50th minute off a free kick that deflected off the top of Cunningham’s fingers in an attempt to block Turner’s shot, giving the Blue Demons their first lead of the game at 2-1. DePaul’s third goal came on an own goal from Illinois after a cross from Cerny was deflected in by an Illini defender to give the Blue Demons a 3-1 cushion in the 76th minute.
Once the match concluded, players stressed that Thursday’s battle against the Fighting Illini was no short of a tedious one.
“They’re coming down our throats the entire time and we’re just you know grinding, grinding, grinding,” Cerny said. “Kicking it out, getting it out, everyone’s just working so hard.”
As the nonconference schedule rolls on with two road games, the Blue Demons seek to continue emphasizing team ball and positivity as a means to make progress.
“I think we have a huge positive energy this year,” Turner said. “I think that everyone plays really well together, plays really unselfishly, and I think all of that is really gonna help us moving forward and I’m really excited to see what we can accomplish this season.”
The Blue Demons will hit the road next week for two consecutive games. They will first take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis on Aug. 30 before traveling to southern Wisconsin on Sept. 2 to square off against the UW-Milwaukee Panthers.