Illinois Downs No. 24 Indiana on Senior Night
Oct. 19, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - In what was truly the seniors' night for the Illinois soccer team, the Illini knocked off the No. 24 Indiana Hoosiers with a 3-0 win on Friday in front of 1,560 fans, the second largest crowd in history at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium. Senior goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens notched her 25th career shutout, breaking the school's all-time record, while senior forward Ella Masar tallied two goals and senior defender Mary Therese McDonnell added her first goal of the season.
In addition to blanking their fifth straight opponent, the Illini snapped the Hoosiers' 13-game unbeaten streak. Illinois improves to 9-4-1 (4-2-1 Big Ten), while Indiana falls to 11-2-2 (5-1-1 Big Ten).
"I think we get some confidence out of this win," head coach Janet Rayfield said. "I thought we played great and I thought we kept our composure. This is probably the most efficient in terms of goal-scoring that we have been."
Illinois took a 1-0 lead at 17:19 when Masar took the ball at the top of the box before beating her defender and firing a shot from the left post into the corner of the net. It was Masar's seventh goal of the season and fourth game-winner this year.
"We talked a lot about making Indiana have to defend from sideline to sideline," Rayfield said. "If we let it get really compact and narrow, their physical defense was going to be tough to beat. I thought we had a great work rate from Jessica Levitt up front. Chichi (Nweke) and Ella (Masar) had the discipline to stay wide and our midfield was moving. When we do that, it's tough to defend us because there are gaps on the field that we can exploit. We were able to find the ball in front of their backs and that created some things for us."
As the match wore on, the intensity and physicality rose, with the two teams combining for 24 fouls in the game. The Orange and Blue took advantage of a hard foul in the 42nd minute as freshman midfielder Cory Steigerwald charged down the field before drawing the foul in the box. McDonnell took the PK for the Illini and punched it into the back of the net to put Illinois up, 2-0, heading into halftime.
"We talked at halftime about battling physically and fighting for every space, fighting for every ball, but not getting caught up in the foul game," Rayfield said. "The key when you are in a really physical, combative battle like that is to battle and compete without losing your composure."
The heated match continued into the second half, but Illinois again took control of the tempo as Masar notched her second goal of the game at 59: 43. Sophomore forward Chichi Nweke crossed from the left side to Masar inside the six on the far post. Masar's left-footed shot deflected off Indiana goalkeeper Lauren Hollandsworth and trickled into the goal to seal Illinois' 3-0 victory.
It's great to see [Masar] celebrate those goals and to have the community here to see that," Rayfield said. "That's a kid that's earned it. There's no one who has worked harder. You celebrate those nights that a player who has put that kind of work in and set high standards for herself and gone after them, and has the opportunity to show off in front of her own fans and her family and friends. You hope everybody has a night like that sometime in their life."
Carstens, who surpassed current assistant coach Leisha Alcia for the career shutout record, collected her eight shutout of the season. The West Chester, Ohio, native also currently holds the school's career goals against average, with a miniscule 0.90 GAA.
"The whole team makes my job easy," Carstens said. "[Opponents] take shots from so far away, so it really makes my job easy - more directing and using my feet. Defensively, offensively, all together, [my teammates] really did a great job. This is our fifth-straight shutout, so I think that gives us confidence. All season we have known that we are a great offensive team. [Coach Rayfield] kept saying that we are a great defensive team, and I think we are finally proving that to ourselves."
Illinois finishes the season with its last three games on the road. The Illini will travel to Purdue on Sunday for a noon match that will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network. The Orange and Blue hit the road again next weekend, finishing the regular season at Michigan and Michigan State on Friday and Sunday, respectively.