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WSOC: Flyer Defense Salvages Hard-Fought 0-0 Draw with Illinois
WSOC: Flyer Defense Salvages Hard-Fought 0-0 Draw with Illinois
Christopher Rieman
Published by Chris R
Smile WSOC: Flyer Defense Salvages Hard-Fought 0-0 Draw with Illinois

The UD womenís soccer team hosted the Illinois Fighting Illini on Sunday afternoon at Baujan Field in a battle of unbeaten and untied squads, but neither side could find the back of the net in a hard-fought 0-0 draw under perfect weather conditions for a late-August soccer match. Dayton moves their record to 3-0-1 while the Illini take the bus home at 2-0-1.

Fresh off a 1-0 victory over #17 Xavier on Thursday evening, the Illini were riding high as they arrived in town looking to put the first blemish on an equally-perfect Flyer record. This would be Daytonís stiffest test of the non-conference schedule thus far and a good barometer of progress.

The opening minutes of the first half were controlled by Illinois as they demonstrated Big-10 speed and quickness in pursuit of the ball everywhere on the field. While UD was adjusting to the tempo, Illinois wasted no time pushing forward with precision passing and quality dribble-drives along the flank to apply pressure on the Flyer back line. Once again without the services of All-Conference defender Alicia Donley, UD had a lot on its plate over the first 15 minutes of play.

The Illini generated several quality scoring chances around the Flyer goal box using crosses, post-up service to forwards in the central alley, as well as timely runs down the touchlines looking to turn the corner. UD did a lot of chasing to stay in front of the run of play, doing just enough to stick legs out and deflect dangerous balls heading into the mixer. Flyer GK Batoul Reda was busy organizing her back line to pick up attacking players running unopposed; Illinois did a great job of using the full width of the field and forcing UD to defend with diagonal defensive runs to cut off the loose marks.

Dayton remained a step slow over the first 25 minutes and had trouble gathering possession let alone maintaining it. The closure speed and hungriness of Illinois resulted in a gobble-up of 50/50 chances while also eliminating most of Daytonís ability to push the ball forward. UDís best opportunities on offense came on counter-attacks when catching the Illini flat-footed and forced to defend 1v1. Laney Huber got behind the defense and almost slipped a ball past the goalkeeper to turn the tide and put the Flyers up 1-0, while Madison Wilson did her best along the right flank to beat defenders and turn the corner for crosses in the box.

To UDís credit, they improved as the half wore on. The last 15 minutes were relatively even as Dayton did a better job of pushing forward with greater urgency rather than allowing Illinoisí speed to close gaps and snuff out those chances in the midfield.

The match remained scoreless at the half and while Illinois had the better run of play, the Flyers were at their best in the back end of the frame.

First half stats were 6-2 Illinois in shots, while corner kicks were 2-2.

The Flyers were clearly working harder to stay in the match but werenít without weapons and opportunities to find the back of the net if they were extremely opportunistic. The restart would ultimately dictate the last 45 minutes of play however and the Illini wasted no time finding another gear.

Showcasing speed and fitness that seemed to only grow stronger as the match continued, Illinois slowly and methodically took control the match and forced UD into a defensive bunker they largely never escaped from for the remainder of the game. UD was a step slow in most places and unable to gain meaningful possession to link a few passes together and send balls up the field. Meanwhile, the Flyer back line got no rest as they defended an endless onslaught of through-balls, crosses, dribble-drives, and give-and-goís in the defensive third of the pitch. All that chasing and shot-blocking gradually took a toll and as the 2nd half continued, UD was slowly running out of gas to punch back with any force.

Ball-winning ability in the central third rarely materialized to take pressure off the fullbacks and allow the shape of the field to bounce back into form. Illinois won most loose balls at midfield and sent those collections back into the mixer. Reda came up huge throughout the last 45 minutes in a variety of ways Ė stoning shots at the goal line, charging dangerous chances, or going high for punch-outs to eliminate an Illinois redirect into the net. The UD defense did everything a coaching staff could ask for to keep the opponent off the scoreboard; they just needed more help beyond the box to make things other than a one-sided affair.

UDís best chance to steal a goal still hinged on a quality counter-attack and while they were few and far between, the Flyers did have a couple excellent chances to put the ball in the net. The best opportunity came in the last five minutes when a scrum in front of the Illini box led to a redirect off the left post Ė but it bounced outside instead of inside to keep the score deadlocked at 0-0.

Dayton sold out defensively in the waning moments to shut the door on a bevy of Illinois scoring opportunities and eventually earn the hard-fought draw.

Second half stats were 11-5 in shots and 2-1 in corner kicks in favor of the Illini. Shots on goal however were just 6-3 for the match.

Sundayís contest was a tough ask for Dayton as Illinois demonstrated an impressive level of speed and fitness Ė and never seemed to run out of gas over 90 minutes of play. They were extremely balanced with athletes in all three lines of the lineup that could hit the jets when needed to close space and win possession. At the same time however, Daytonís effort was very good all match and the inability to win additional possession hinged mostly on God-given athletic DNA. Illinois had a higher aerobic ceiling and used it to their advantage, while UD played near their own ceiling -- all the while being forced into fire-drill mode at times to keep themselves in the match. Considering these realities, Sundayís 0-0 scoreline was a solid result for Head Coach Eric Golzí team as they ran up against a Big-10 opponent that challenged UD for 90 minutes and forced the Flyers to work extremely hard to salvage a meaningful result. Understanding that context, itís hard to walk away unsatisfied. Four games into the season, Dayton grinded very close to their ability thus far and asking for more is probably unfair. The next challenge will be raising that bar by the A10 schedule so the back line is not as busy.

The Flyers hit the road for the first time this year with matches at Akron on Thursday (8/31) and Wright State on Sunday (9/3).

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Make everyone else's "one day" your "day one".
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