No. 19 Illinois Victorious in Season Opener
Aug. 23, 2008
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Junior forward Chichi Nweke notched the golden goal in the 94th minute to propel the Illini to a 2-1 overtime victory against the No. 22 Missouri Tigers (0-1). Nweke also assisted on senior midfielder Marti Desjarlais' goal that gave Illinois a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
"I was impressed with our mentality, especially against a team like Missouri that imposes a physical style," head coach Janet Rayfield said. "We were able to battle with them which was a great experience because they tested our defense and that's something we needed to season."
The Illini (1-0) wasted little time jumping out to a 1-0 lead as Desjarlais notched Illinois' first goal of the season in the seventh minute. Sophomore forward Jordan Hilbrands drove down the left flank then crossed to Nweke on the opposite side. Nweke took the ball to the endline before centering to Desjarlais inside the PK where she rifled the ball into the goal to give the Illini the edge.
Desjarlais continued to pick apart the Missouri defense, narrowly missing another scoring opportunity after she picked up a loose ball at the six and Tiger goalkeeper Tasha Dittamore made a diving stop. Of Illinois' five first-half shots, Desjarlais collected three, all on frame, while the Illini defense stifled Missouri from taking a shot on goal.
It was Missouri's turn to come out firing in the second half, as the Tigers tied the game in the 47th minute. Junior forward Michelle Collins took a cross from junior midfielder Bree Thornton and put it into the corner of the net for the equalizer.
Freshman forward Marissa Mykines continued Illinois' pressuring attack last in the second half, forcing Dittamore to make three saves to keep the tie intact through regulation.
"I though we saw flashes of a very dangerous attacking team tonight," Rayfield said. "We showed things offensively that we haven't even worked on, so it was a good starting point. Marissa had great chances and showed she'll be a very dangerous addition to an experienced group of frontrunners."
The Orange and Blue offense prevailed quickly in the overtime period thanks again to Nweke. Sophomore forward Laura Knutson's through ball to Nweke drew Dittamore from between the posts and Nweke slotted the ball into the net for the game-winner.
Illinois returns home next weekend to host the Illini Challenge Cup presented by Gameday Spirit and Dish Network. The Illini will face Iowa State in their home opener at 7:30 p.m. at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium on Friday, Aug. 29. Pitt and Dayton precede Illinois' game at 5 p.m., while the tournament will wrap up on Sunday, Aug. 31 with a consolation match at 11 a.m. and championship at 2 p.m.