UIC Soccer Splits First Two Spring Contests

Ivan Stanisavljevic
Ivan Stanisavljevic

April 9, 2012

CHICAGO - The UIC men's soccer team opened its spring campaign this past week, splitting a pair of contests against host Northern Illinois on March 31 at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex, and at Lewis University on April 5. The Flames dropped a 3-0 decision versus NIU, a 2011 NCAA Tournament participant, and defeated the Flyers, 3-1.

In the first competition of the spring, UIC and NIU played three, 30-minute periods. The Flames gave up one goal in each period with the Huskies converted a penalty kick at the end of the first period, scoring on a giveaway from the UIC backline in the second stanza, and executing on a corner kick in the third period.

"Spring exhibition games are very valuable in the development of our players," said head coach Sean Phillips. "With seven seniors exhausting their eligibility this past fall, five of whom were regular starters in key parts of the field, this spring will provide an excellent opportunity for some players who for a variety of reasons have not played many minutes to get tested, gain experience and truly understand what it takes to compete at a high level prior to next fall.

"We knew going in that this match was going to be a great challenge for us. NIU returned a good number of their team from 2011 NCAA Tournament team and had already played one exhibition game. Their experience and match sharpness proved to be something we were not able to overcome. While there were some positive moments during the game, we did not respond well enough to their pressure over the course of the game which resulted in the three goals. During training the next week we focused more on individual and small group defending as well as playing faster when we have the ball."

The match against Lewis also consisted of included three, 30-minute periods. UIC scored its first-of three goals halfway through the first period, when Ned Pavlovic got to the end line, and played a ball across the six to Slobodan Aleksov, who finished with a cool placement just past the goalkeeper.

The Flames' second goal came in the second period, when Marcin Modzelewski served a ball behind the Lewis back four, which found the head of Ivan Stanisavljevic, the reigning Horizon League Offensive Player of the Year. Lewis forced a giveaway toward the end of the second period, which resulted in a great finish to slice UIC's lead in half, 2-1.

Towards the end of the third period, Aleksov and Pavlovic teamed up again. This time Pavlovic hit the crossbar, and Aleksov played it back across the goalmouth to Pavlovic who returned the favor for the third goal.

"The most important aspect of this game was the improvement shown by each player from the past Saturday," Phillips said. "This improvement was a result of getting that first game under our belt and the work put in by the players last week. Our individual and small group defending, while not yet consistent enough, showed better principles and pressure during the match. The front half of the team did a better job initiating the defending while the back half applied better pressure. This allowed us to win the ball and better spots and create more opportunities to either counter attack or keep the ball. Pavlovic and Aleksov, two talented players who missed a large amount of last fall due to injury, showed more game sharpness with their finishing."