#18 Illini Advance to Big Ten Tournament Championship
Nov. 4, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. - Illinois soccer played beyond regulation for the second consecutive game in the Big Ten Tournament, needing a goal in extra time from senior midfielder Marissa Mykines to push past Michigan State, 1-0, and into the championship game. Mykines tallied the lone mark of Friday afternoon's contest in the 92nd minute, the third game-winner of the season for the Spokane, Wash., native.
"I saw a lot of heart, fight and persistence from both teams today," Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said. "We both had chances and Steph [Panozzo] made a great save on Laura Heyboer, coming out to close space before making a great stop. I told Marissa [Mykines] at halftime, 10 percent less power and 90 percent more accuracy and with that last shot she took a little bit off it and made sure it got on-frame. [Marissa shot] across the goalkeeper's body, which is a tough shot to save."
Illini junior goalkeeper Steph Panozzo was clutch throughout the scoreless first half to keep the Spartans out of the scoring column early, coming up with five saves over the opening 45 minutes. Panozzo was especially strong in net when Michigan State earned a pair of high-quality chances with 20 minutes remaining in the opening half. Three-time All-American Laura Heyboer fired a shot on target from within the 18-yard box; however, Panozzo rushed off the line in anticipation of the play to make the sliding stop. Panozzo's block re-directed the ball to Spartan Megan Pines, who struck a low attempt on the rebound, with Panozzo there to keep the shot out of the net for the second time in as many plays.
"The biggest save was when Steph came out and closed down the space [against Heyboer], something that they have been working on all year long," Rayfield said. "Just to see her improve and make that save that they have been training for and [assistant coach] Leisha [Alcia] has been working with her on, I'm just so happy for both of them. It is something that they have really worked on and for her to make that type of stop to save this game for us is just a testament to how good my goalkeeper coach is and how much Steph has improved."
After another scoreless half, during which Panozzo made two more stops to set the first-year keeper's single-game career-high of seven saves, the Illini and the Spartans headed to overtime for the second consecutive time in the series between the programs. For the third straight contest between the Illini and the Spartans, Illinois secured a one-goal victory, with Mykines providing the tally less than three minutes into overtime. Mykines controlled possession outside the Michigan State 18-yard box and dribbled across the front of the goal before finding a small opening in the Spartans' defense. With Michigan State leaving a tiny shooting window, Mykines sized up a cross-body attempt, firing a right-footed shot into the lower-left corner of the net.
"Marissa just kept going at them, sometimes maybe a bit too much, going one against four, but she got herself isolated one-against-one, saw the window to take the shot and put it in the back of the net," Rayfield said of Mykines, who had nine attempts on the game. "She has become more and more confident as the year has gone on. This last goal continues to give her confidence... she is scoring goals that really matter to us and that is what you want your senior to do when the game is on the line and you need someone to step up. You usually rely on a senior to do that and Marissa has come through for us many times this season."
The Illini outshot Michigan State, 15-12, and totaled four corner kicks to only two for the Spartans. Panozzo finished with seven saves in net and Jill Flietstra stopped five shots for Michigan State, while the Spartans were called for more fouls, 11-8.
Mykines also produced the game-winner against Michigan State on Oct. 8, when Illinois earned a 1-0 double-overtime win over the Spartans in East Lansing, Mich., with Mykines beating Flietstra to the left in both contests. With the win, Illinois improves its unbeaten streak to 10 consecutive games after setting the program record during the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals contest against Ohio State.
The #2-seeded Orange and Blue (15-4-2) continue their season in the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game against #1-seed Penn State (19-3-0), with the contest scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. CT. on Sunday, Nov. 6.