Seniors Power Illinois to 4-1 win over Nebraska
Oct. 21, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - It was Senior Day at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium as Shayla Mutz, Niki Read, Steph Panozzo, Nicole Denenberg and Marissa Holden were honored before the game. Then the seniors lived up to the name of the day to power the Illini to a 4-1 victory in their final home game of the regular season. Mutz scored two first half goals with Read and Vanessa DiBernardo adding tallies in the second period.
"Nebraska is a tough team to keep possession against because they do come in a flurry and really come at you hard and I thought we settled the game well," said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield.
From the get-go, Illinois dictated the style of play and possession, applying pressure to the Nebraska defense and goalkeeper Emma Stevens, who enjoyed wandering outside the box and acting as a deep sweeper at times. The Illini recorded 16 first half shots compared to the Cornhuskers' three.
Shayla Mutz, who got a chance to move into the offensive third more this game, took advantage of her opportunities in the box. In the 21st-minute, Mutz stripped a Nebraska defender from the ball and released a hard shot that banked off the right post and in for the 1-0 lead.
Then, five minutes later, Mutz struck again. Freshman Nicole Breece inbounded the ball from the left side with her patented flip-throw. The ball took one bounce deep in the Nebraska box before finding the head of Mutz who redirected it into the far post to extend the lead to two.
"It's nice to score no matter the day but because I haven't been playing the past three days, I needed to get out there and compete," said Senior Shayla Mutz. "My teammates set me up to score and it was a team effort, I was just the one who found the back of the net."
The strike was Mutz's third goal of the season, 12th of her career and fourth career game-winner. Also, today was Mutz's first multi-goal performance since her 2009 freshmen season in which she scored two against Milwaukee.
"It was a great win, great for the seniors, great to see Shayla Mutz get back out there and get two goals," said Rayfield. "I think that was a welcome back and certainly the team was excited for her and so are we."
However, Nebraska would not go quietly as they got on the board in the 40th-minute. Cornhuskers' leading scorer Mayme Conroy capitalized off a two failed clearance attempts by the Illini defense when she collected the ball inside the Illinois box and delivered it into the upper left corner of the goal.
In the second period, another Illinois senior got in on the fun as Niki Read tallied her first goal of the season just two minutes and 19 seconds into the half. Nebraska chipped a ball to the Illini defense where Aliina Weykamp was waiting and delivered a strong header to the middle of the field. Vanessa DiBernardo collected the ball and chipped ahead to Read who blasted a long shot around the keeper and into the goal.
Illinois continued to take advantage of Emma Stevens venturing way off her line when DiBernardo scored her sixth goal of the season in the 54th-minute. The play started with freshman Amy Feher dishing a ball from the Illini's defensive third to just inside Nebraska's half. After a few dribbles, DiBernardo ripped another long range shot over Stevens to reach the final score of 4-1.
"Today's energy was good. We know it is do or die time and we are ready to do it," said Mutz. "Coming out with urgency and being relentless, we know that's what we're capable of so it's nice to finally bring it to the field and we are only going to get better."
Illinois doubled Nebraska's shot total at 24-12 and had 13 shots on goal compared to the Cornhuskers' seven. The Illini defense also limited Nebraska to just one corner kick as the offense produced seven for the Orange and Blue. Furthermore, seniors Nicole Denenberg and Marissa Holden tallied two shots each in the contest.
Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo had a quiet first half with one save but registered five more in the second for a total of six. The senior now has a career high 77 saves, surpassing last season's high mark of 75.
Illinois moves to 8-7-2 overall and 5-4-1 in Big Ten competition. The win kept Nebraska at bay as they entered today just one point behind the Illini in the conference standings. Thus, the Cornhuskers drop to 7-10-1 overall and 4-6-0 in the Big Ten.
In addition, Illinois advances to 15-1-0 on games played on Senior Day and have now won their past 76 games when netting three or more goals, dating back to the 1999 season. The Orange and Blue sent the home crowd away happy as they finished 6-2-0 at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium this season.
"We needed to come out with energy and believe in ourselves and play with the kind of confidence we had when we started the season and we accomplished that today," concluded Rayfield.
Next up, the Illini wrap up regular season play when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. Ct.