Junior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka collected five saves as the Illini and Spartans ended in a 0-0 tie, with MSU winning the PK shootout, 4-3.
Nov. 7, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa - After 110 minutes of play ended in a scoreless draw, the Illinois soccer team's Big Ten Tournament fate came down to a penalty kick shootout and it was the Michigan State Spartans (13-5-3, 5-4-1 Big Ten) that squeaked out the 4-3 win to advance to the semifinal round. Illinois junior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka delivered an outstanding performance in what counts as a tie for the Illini (11-8-1, 5-5-0 Big Ten), collecting five saves and earning her eighth shutout of the season.
"We battle like this all the time and I don't have anything negative to say about how we battled tonight," head coach Janet Rayfield said. "That's one of the top goal-scoring teams in the Big Ten and we shut them out. That should be enough for us to win. To hold that team to no goals in 110 minutes, that's a tremendous defensive effort on our part. We played collectively perfect defense against a very good attacking team.
"We really have to look at what we didn't do offensively and not finishing the chances we did have. The nemesis that has kind of been our Achilles heel all year we obviously still haven't solved. To win a game you've got to find the back of the net."
Illinois controlled possession early, as junior midfielder Jackie Santacaterina created problems for the Spartan defense with four first-half shots. Santacaterina narrowly missed putting the Illini on the board in the 25th minute, senior midfielder Marti Desjarlais delivered a corner kick into the box where Santacaterina's header was plucked out of the air by MSU goalkeeper Jill Fliestra to keep things even.
Sophomore midfielder Jordan Hilbrands had another opportunity for the Illini with just over a minute left in the half. After the Illini had a pair of shots deflected by the Spartan defense, Hilbrands picked up a rebound and tried to chip the ball in, but her shot sailed high as the first half ended in a scoreless draw.
In the second half, Michigan State's Sarah Stern nearly put the Spartans on top with a long shot from the top of the box in the 58th minute, but Illinois keeper Alexandra Kapicka made a spectacular save, stretching out to punch the ball over the net and preserve the tie.
"I told (Alexandra) that's by far the best college game she's played to date," Rayfield said. "She made a couple of big time saves to keep us in it and big time saves in penalty kicks. She did everything you want a goalkeeper at this level to do. She kept us in the game, but the hard part is that we didn't do the job to in our attack to sing her praises."
With just under 10 seconds left in the game, Hilbrands picked up the ball and drove down the center of the field before passing off to Desjarlais on the right. Desjarlais took a couple of touches before firing a shot that ricocheted off the left post and back to Levitt, whose shot was saved by Fliestra as time expired in regulation.
Illinois had a pair of opportunities during the first overtime, as Desjarlais and Santacaterina each put a shot on frame. The Spartan defense, though, continued to hold as Fliestra made two more saves, sending the game into a second overtime. Kapicka returned the favor during the period as she came out from between the posts in a 1v1 with Spartan's Laura Heyboer and pounced on a shot before the Illini defense cleared.
The two teams headed into penalty kicks, marking the second year in a row the Illini have had their Big Ten Tournament fate left up to a shootout. Despite Kapicka once again making a pair of outstanding saves in the shootout, Illinois came up short, falling 4-3 to end its tournament run.
The Illini now await the announcement of the NCAA Tournament field. The 64 teams will be announced on Monday, Nov. 10 between 7-7:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPNews.