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    Illinois Play Minnesota to 2-2 Tie in Big Ten Opener
    The Illini celebrate following Christina Sahly's goal.

    The Illini celebrate following Christina Sahly's goal.

    Sept. 27, 2009

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    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois soccer team opened up the Big Ten season by battling to a 2-2 tie with Minnesota on Sunday, as a crowd of 2,347 gathered at the Illinois Soccer Stadium for the fourth annual SoccerFest. The attendance marked the second largest crowd in school history, as fans came out to support the Illini and enjoy the festivities with free food, games and motorcycles surrounding the track.

    Illinois (5-3-2, 0-0-1 Big Ten) got its goals from junior Christina Sahly and senior Jackie Santacaterina as the team played its second double overtime game of the season.

    "This was a typical Big Ten battle that went both ways," Illini head coach Janet Rayfield said. "Whoever came out with the ball created chances on goal. We didn't create enough chances because they won the battle in the midfield. We just didn't have the ball enough.

    "I told our team that the team who finishes at the top of the Big Ten standings will be grinders. We grinded out a tie today, now we need to grind out some wins. We have to focus on the mental side. Our team has a lot of heart, desire and talent. Not we have to find a little bit of guts."

    The Orange and Blue got on the board first, as Sahly scored in the 17th minute for her second goal of the season. The junior one-timed a shot inside the box after a pass from Jordan Hilbrands, marking the first time this season Minnesota has given up a goal in the first half. Hilbrands tallied her first assist of the year and leads the Illini with 13 points on the season.

    Minnesota (7-2-2, 1-0-1) got plenty of first-half chances, as the Gophers had eight corner kicks in the first half playing with a heavy wind and were able to capitalize and tie the game at 1-1 in the 35th. After a corner by Katie Bethke, Kylie Kallman headed the ball to the center of the box for Olivia Bagnall, who finished and scored her first career goal.

    The game stayed tied at 1-1 through halftime, with Minnesota out-shooting the Illini 7-2 and owning a 4-2 advantage in shots on goal.

    The Gophers scored just seconds into the second half, as Tamara Strahota finished a cross from Shari Eckstrom to make the score 2-1 in favor of Minnesota in the 46th.

    Illinois took the momentum right back, however, as Santacaterina tied the game at 2-2 in the 49th. The senior won the ball from the Minnesota defense, curling a left-footed shot to the right corner of the goal from just outside the box.

    From that point on the team's played evenly, as each had chances to get a win. Strahota had two shots that went wide for the Gophers in the final 12 minutes, while the Illini had two-near misses on goal. Santacaterina headed a shot wide for the Illini in the 84th, while Shayla Mutz sent a shot wide with less than a minute to play after a cross by Sahly.

    Illinois dominated the first overtime, with shots on goal by Marissa Mykines, Cory Steigerwald and Courtney Bell, but Minnesota keeper Cat Parkhill made a save each time to keep the match tied. Neither team got anything going in the second overtime, as the match finished in a 2-2 tie after 110 minutes of play.

    Illini goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka was kept busy throughout the day, making seven saves. Parkhill made three for the Gophers. Minnesota out-shot the Illini 16-11, also owning a 9-5 advantage in shots on goal.

    A challenging weekend is coming up for the Illini with a pair of Big Ten road games against ranked opponents. Illinois plays at No. 15 Purdue on Friday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. CT, then heads to Bloomington, Ind. to face No. 19 Indiana on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m.

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