Monday, October 2, 2017

Men's Soccer: UIS men’s soccer team starting to fly high

September was a great month for the University of Illinois Springfield men’s soccer team.

The Prairie Stars have just one loss in the past seven games. They sit in third place in the 15-team Great Lakes Valley Conference standings with a 5-1-1 league record. 

The program cracked the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional poll for the first time ever last week when it ranked 10th out of 10 teams.

The Stars had never before earned a regional ranking in their nine-year NCAA Division II history. “It’s a great achievement, but we can’t get our heads caught into that,” UIS senior midfielder Naba Alzhyri said. “That only matters at the end of the season. For now, we’re keeping our heads focused and we will keep pushing to try to get the best out of this year. I think we’ve got something special.” 

After being voted 10th in the GLVC preseason coaches poll and starting out 0-2, UIS is 5-3-1 overall and doing the little things that could add up to big things as the season goes on.

GLVC games are played on Fridays and Sundays. In four Friday matches, UIS is 4-0.

Contributions to the Stars’ record seem to be coming from everywhere. Eighteen players have started at least one match. UIS coach Adam Hall is averaging a rotation of 19 to 20 players per game.

“I like to reward those who have had a good week in training,” Hall said.

 Hall is asking a lot of all his players. A winning record at the end of the season has eluded UIS since it joined the Division II ranks.

The Stars last finished above .500 in their final season in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in 2008. They had a 7-5 record that year.

UIS has never made an appearance in the GLCV Soccer Championship Tournament.

In 2016, it missed qualifying for it by one spot.

The top eight teams will compete in the single-elimination tourney later this month. The Stars are hoping they’re a part of it.

“We still have a long way to go,” UIS senior defender Khalid Dhalla said. “We’re only about halfway through the season. “We’ve come a long way since freshmen year. Coach (Hall) has recruited a lot of players and it has really lifted the level a play a lot.”

This article appeared in The State Journal Register on September 30, 2017.

Read the entire article online.