CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — The 2023-24 Illinois athletics calendar is here.

The Illini soccer team kicks off a new school year of sporting events Thursday night, hosting Loyola at 7 p.m. at Demirjian Park. It’s Year 22 for head coach Janet Rayfield leading the program, looking to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. The Illini are coming off a 7-7-4 season, returning most of the roster with 19 letter winners back, and only three newcomers.

“Live in that moment and create success moment by moment and I think if we can do that, if we can really have the sort of belief in ourselves, not worry about external factors, not worry about even the outcome of the game and just worry about that moment, can we make what we’re supposed to make happen in that moment,” Rayfield said after practice on Wednesday. “This team has the talent, this team has the ability, to really do things and I think have a special season.”

Defense has been the main emphasis in camp for the Illini after allowing a Big Ten worst 37 goals last season. Key returners include sixth year forward Makena Silber, who missed all of last year with an injury, along with Kennedy Berschel, Makala Woods and Ella Karolak all earning Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch list honors.