Purdue Edged in Opener by Illinois
WESTFIELD, Ind. – The Purdue soccer team opened the 2020-21 season with a 1-0 loss to Illinois on Thursday afternoon at the Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Indiana.
The Boilermakers (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) had a 12-8 advantage in shots and junior goalkeeper Marisa Bova made six saves, but a goal by the Fighting Illini (1-0, 1-0 Big Ten) in the 81st minute broke a scoreless tie. Four of Purdue’s shots went on goal, while seven of Illinois’ were on net.
“I was pleased with our effort today, I thought we worked extremely hard, we defended very well and didn’t give up a lot of opportunities,” Purdue coach Drew Roff said. “But, you have to give Illinois credit, they took advantage of a strange sequence in the box, where the ball might’ve gone off the post and somehow came right to one of their players in the six, and she tucked it away. It was one of those games where it probably was going to come down to a moment like that, and we had a couple and they had a couple, and they were able to convert. Credit to Illinois, they’re an athletic, hard-working team. There were times where they definitely disrupted our rhythm a little bit.”
The loss snapped a five-match win streak in season-openers for the Boilermakers, who opened the year against a Big Ten opponent for the first time in program history.
Freshman forward Nicole Kevdzija led the Boilermakers with three shots, one on goal, and redshirt junior forward Sarah Griffith had two shots. Four other players had a shot in the contest, and Kevdzija was one of three with shots on goal.
Bova had six saves, one shy of tying her career high. Two came in the first half and four were in the final 45 minutes.
Kevdzija was one of five to make their Purdue debuts on Thursday and one of four in the starting lineup. Sophomore midfielder Gabby Hollar and freshmen midfielders Victoria Kevdzija and Emily Mathews also started, while freshman forward/defender Samantha Wong came off the bench.
“Some players made their debuts today, which I thought were outstanding,” Roff added. “Nicole Kevdzija was very threatening up top, we just need to give her a little more support up there. Emily Mathews did really well play-making in the midfield, so I really like what those two did as young players. Our two center-backs, (senior) Maya Lambert and (junior) Julia Ware, were very good, they built out of the back well, defended well and really didn’t give Illinois a lot of good chances.
“I really didn’t feel like we were threatened that much, but it was a solid performance, a good first time out. We would’ve loved to get a result, I think a 0-0, 1-1 draw was probably fairer with how the two teams played and how they stacked up, but you have to give Illinois credit, they found a way. We have to go back to work and figure out how we’re going to score some goals next week and get ready for Maryland. All in all, I’m pleased with the debut, happy to be back and proud of how our players worked. I know next week we’ll be ready to play even better than we did today for sure.”
Purdue’s first chance of the match came in the fourth minute, when Griffith had a shot that went high.
In the 16th minute, Kevdzija sent a ball in to junior midfielder Ally Mussallem inside the six, but she was just offside. Three minutes later, at 18:57, Bova made her first save of the match on a shot towards the top-right of the net.
The Boilermakers’ first corner came in the 25th minute, but Illinois cleared the attempt into the box.
Nicole Kevdzija had her first chance of the match in the 33rd minute. She dribbled down the near sideline and in for a shot from 25 yards out, but Illinois’ goalkeeper made the save.
Bova had her second save of the half in the 37th minute on a ball in from 20 yards away on the far corner of the box. Inside the six, she made a leaping save to deflect the ball out and force a corner kick, which the Purdue defense cleared to prevent any further chances.
To open the second half, Nicole Kevdzija connected to Griffith in the 51st minute with a pass to the near side at the edge of the box, but Illinois’ defense prevented Griffith from getting a shot off from just inside the 18.
Bova stopped another shot inside the six in the 57th minute, and the defense forced a shot that sailed high on the ensuing corner kick.
Junior midfielder Teagan Jones and Victoria Kevdzija had opportunities in the 61st and 62nd minutes, but Jones’ shot in from the near corner went right to the keeper inside the six, and Kevdzija’s arching ball off a throw-in was caught.
Two minutes later, the Boilermakers had one of their best opportunities of the match. Nicole Kevdzija dribbled into the box and passed to her left to Griffith, who sent a shot in from the near side to the far post. However, her attempt went just wide to keep the match scoreless. Less than a minute later, Nicole Kevdzija had a shot blocked from 15 yards out.
Bova made another nice save in the 66th minute on a low shot from 30 yards away, as she dove to her left.
In the 77th minute, junior midfielder Sydney Duarte had a breakaway opportunity, but after evading several defenders, her shot from inside the box was saved.
Illinois found the match’s lone goal at 80:33. Makena Silber scored off a rebound that hit the goalpost. Purdue was unable to get a shot in the final nine minutes.
Both teams had two shots in the opening half, with both of Purdue’s on goal. In the second half, the Boilermakers out-shot the Illini 10-6 and had a -3 advantage in shots on goal. Illinois had five corner kicks in the contest and Purdue had four.
“I thought the first half we were very good and created some great chances,” Roff said. “In the second half, I feel like we were a little fatigued, which, being the first game, it’s hard to predict how playing 90 minutes is going to affect us, it’s something we haven’t done in so long. We lacked a little sharpness in the final third, there were times where things looked promising, but things weren’t quite sharp enough to create chances when those small windows opened up. Those are the things that we’ve been doing well in training, so game day is different. That’s the next step, doing all those great things that we see on a daily basis in a Big Ten match.”
Illinois was the designated home team for Thursday’s contest. The match was originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 20, in Champaign, Illinois, and the date and location change was due to Illinois’ field not being ready for play.
Purdue returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 25, when it hosts Maryland. The home-opening match is set for a 5 p.m. ET kickoff.
NOTES: Purdue is 0-1 on the season … The Boilermakers fall to 9-13-3 all-time against Illinois and 1-3 in neutral-site contests … The loss snaps a five-match win streak in season-opening contests, all under sixth-year coach Drew Roff … Purdue is now 5-1-0 in season-openers and 3-2-1 in Big Ten openers under Roff … Thursday’s match was the first time in team history the Boilermakers opened a season against a Big Ten foe … Purdue held a 12-8 advantage in shots, while Illinois had a 7-4 edge in shots on goal … Marisa Bova had six saves to the Illini’s four … Five Boilermakers made their Purdue debut, with four in the starting lineup … Nicole Kevdzija had a team-high three shots, while Sarah Griffith had two.
More Than A Game
The More Than A Game campaign was launched in August, in partnership with the John Purdue Club, to help the athletics department navigate the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and position Boilermaker athletics for future success.
Boilermakers and friends can make a contribution to the More Than A Game campaign by contacting their Boilermaker Athletics Representative or by visiting JPCMoreThanAGame.com. Fans can purchase a special More Than A Game t-shirt from Legends and the Purdue Team Store, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the More Than A Game campaign. To purchase the t-shirt, click here or go to PurdueTeamStore.com.
Purdue Athletics is one of only a handful of Division I athletics departments that is entirely self-sustaining: it does not receive any taxpayer dollars, general fund support from Purdue University, or student fees. John Purdue Club memberships are directed to funding the $12 million scholarship cost for student-athletes and this separate fund will help offset Purdue Athletics’ 2020-21 budget shortfall.