After an unprecedented 450 day offseason, the Purdue soccer team is ready to kick off the 2021 season Thursday afternoon against the Illinois Fighting Illini. 

The last time the Boilermakers took the field was in 2019, when the season concluded with a 1-0 loss to Penn State in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. And the long-awaited season is a challenge that the Boilermakers are ready to take head-on.

“In training, we have some very competitive sessions but you get tired of playing the same people,” head coach Drew Roff said. “Soccer can be a physical game and when you get matched with the same defender every practice you need something new, and that’s what we’re ready for.”

Many of the starters from the previous roster are back and ready to play.

Junior forward Sarah Griffith led the team in three stats last season. She recorded 36 shots, 20 shots on goal and three assists. She also tied two of her teammates with 9 total points for the year. 

Senior forward Hannah Melchiorre also led the team in important categories. She had a team-high four goals, three of which were game-winners, including the goal to upset No. 7 Wisconsin 1-0 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

“You always want a little more than what you get but we had some very productive sessions in the fall,” Roff said. “This team has a chemistry that is a nice blend of experience and leadership with an element of youthful energy.”

Illinois is an old rival of the Boilermakers, but the matchups are few and far between. The Illini lead the all-time series 11-9-3, and the last time the two teams played was Oct. 11th, 2018. Illinois took a 3-1 victory. 

“Illinois is always a good matchup, I feel like it’s gonna end up with who wants it more,” Melchiorre said. “Every time we’ve played them it can go either way.”

Thursday may be a familiar match for veteran players, but they will also be welcoming the next group of Boilermakers into the rivalry. Purdue signed eight players to the class of 2020, and the extra preparation in the fall was a good opportunity to see what they bring to the table.

“The freshman group has some grit to them,” Melchiorre said. “They got some hardheads, and that’s what the Big Ten is all about. It’s great to interact with them and share some knowledge, but I’m excited about everyone.”

The match will take place Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield, In. No broadcast information is available at this time.

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