Head coach Janet Rayfield announced the 2013 schedule on Thursday, which features the Big Ten Tournament hosted by Illinois.
July 18, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois soccer head coach Janet Rayfield announced a competitive slate for the 2013 season, including contests against seven NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. Additionally, four opponents on the 2013 schedule finished last season within the NCAA Top-25 rankings, including No. 2 Penn State, No. 13 Notre Dame, No. 19 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State. Illinois also will host the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2000.
"We will test ourselves early and play a variety of styles and programs from competitive conferences that will establish us regionally and nationally before we even head into conference play," Rayfield said. "That schedule also will prepare us for what will be an extremely competitive year in the Big Ten. The conference continues to improve and with the shuffling that has occurred I feel that the Big Ten is in a position to establish itself as one of the top women's soccer conferences in the country."
The Illini will be challenged immediately with their season opener on Friday, Aug. 23 in South Bend, Ind., against Notre Dame, which reached the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals last year. Two days later, UI will remain on the road and face Louisville on Sunday, Aug. 25. Illinois continues its non-conference slate the next week with the home opener on Friday, Aug. 30 against the College of Charleston at the Illinois Soccer Stadium. On Sunday, Aug. 30, they will stay home to take on in-state foe Illinois State, another 2012 NCAA Tournament participant.
A pair of matches out west are on the docket for Sept. 6 and Sept. 8 against Arizona State and Arizona, respectively. The Sun Devils are the third 2012 NCAA Tournament team the Illini will play in their first five games. The Illini will return home to square off against Indiana State on Sept. 13 and Florida International on Sept. 15.
Illinois begins Big Ten play on Sept. 20 in Columbus, Ohio, against Ohio State, a seeded team in last season's NCAA Tournament. Two conference opponents will come to Champaign the following weekend with Iowa on Sept. 27 and Nebraska on Sept. 29. The Illini will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Big Ten Tournament Championship team during the reunion weekend.
October starts out with two road games against Purdue on Oct. 4 and Indiana on Oct. 6. Illinois will welcome 2012 NCAA Tournament qualifier Wisconsin the next weekend on Oct. 12. The Illini hit the road again to go up against Northwestern on Oct. 17 and Penn State on Oct. 20. The Nittany Lions are the reigning Big Ten champions and finished as the national runner-up to North Carolina a year ago, but the Illini knocked PSU out of last year's Big Ten Tournament, marking the program's first win against a top-three ranked team.
The final weekend of October features the final two regular season games at the Illinois Soccer Stadium against Michigan on Oct. 25 and Michigan State on Oct. 27. The Wolverines are the seventh opponent UI will face that reached the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Illinois ends the regular season at Minnesota on Oct. 31.
Illinois will host the 2013 Big Ten Tournament at the Illinois Soccer Stadium from Nov. 6-10, marking the second time it will be held in Champaign. The 2013 NCAA Tournament will begin on Nov. 15, while the NCAA College Cup will wrap up the year at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., from Dec. 6-8.
"Hosting the Big Ten Tournament is exciting for our team, our program, our alumnae, our fans and the entire Champaign-Urbana community," Rayfield said. "This event will bring some of the best soccer players in the country to Champaign to compete for a coveted title. Our department has shown in the recent months that they can put on a great championship event. The community has shown their incredible support and I know this November will be no different. I think it will be that little bit of added motivation all season long."