CHAMPAIGN — The Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will host #2 North Carolina to Demirjian Park Thursday night. This latest showdown is set for a nationally-televised broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. Central.
The grand opening of the park to the public will occur on this night. A $7 million project was backed by UIUC alumni Richard Demirjian and Kara Demirjian-Huss. Both will be honored in a pregame ceremony.
As part of the organization’s 25th season in soccer, alumni from past teams will be honored at halftime.
The Fighting Illini are coming off an opening weekend, defeating Missouri and Illinois State in solid victories.
Redshirt senior Hope Breslin led the scoring frenzy, scoring her first goal of the season against Missouri. She should add on a hat trick against the Redbirds.
Senior Makena Silber added a brace in Bloomington, tallying two assists on the weekend.
Redshirt junior Kendra Pasquale and freshmen Maeve Jones and Abby Lynch each tallied a goal for UIUC.
This game marks head coach Janet Rayfield’s fourth matchup (0-3-0) against her alma mater. Rayfield is seeking her first win over North Carolina and Hall of Fame coach Ansor Dorrance. Dorrance was Rayfield’s coach during her time as a Tar Heel.
The match marks their highest-ranked opponent since losing 4-1 against #2 Portland in 2009.
The Fighting Illini’s last win against a ranked opponent was in 2019, upsetting #22 Pepperdine by a score of 3-2.
Scouting North Carolina
North Carolina is among the most historic franchises in all of collegiate soccer. The Tar Heels are led by their only coach in program history, National Soccer Hall of Fame-recognized Dorrance.
North Carolina has won the national championship 22 times as a program. Most recently, the Tar Heels made the College Cup semifinals last season
Notable tidbits about the Illinois-North Carolina soccer match
The last meeting between the two schools was on August 16, 2018, in Chapel Hill. North Carolina secured their third straight win against Illinois by a 3-1 margin.
The Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this season. Senior Rachel Jones and junior Maycee Bell were named to the preseason all-conference list.
Illinois’ nine-goal run in their first two matches is the second most since 2018. The Illini scored a combined ten goals in matches against Northern Illinois and Oklahoma State.
Eight members of the Illini squad made their debuts over the weekend. They include freshmen Maddie Mariana, Lynch, Sydney Stephens, Jones, Angie Galo, and Ella Karolak. Debuting sophomores were Julia Cili and Mackenzie Schuler.
Breslin and Pasquale broke the school record for the fastest pair of goals, scoring 22 seconds apart during their match against Mizzou.
Breslin’s hat trick against Illinois State marks the first hat trick since Janelle Flaws’ performance in 2015.
Soccer on the tube
|Illinois (2-0-0) vs North Carolina (2-0-0)|
|When||Thursday, August 26 // 8 p.m. Central|
|Where||Demirjian Park // Champaign|
|Series||Tar Heels lead, 0-3-0|
|Team Information||Illinois Notes | Illinois Record Book|
|Live Links||Live Stats, Big Ten Network|
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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.
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