Illinois Soccer Captures First Big Ten Tournament Crown
Nov. 9, 2003
Madison, Wisc. - The Illinois women's soccer team made history on Sunday in Madison, Wisc. by winning its first ever Big Ten Tournament Title with a 2-0 win over fourth seeded Michigan. 382 fans, most wearing Orange and Blue, erupted after late goals by Tara Hurless and Jessica Bayne that sealed the win for the second seeded and 11th-ranked Illini, who became just the second team to sweep through the conference tournament without giving up a goal, joining the 1994 Wisconsin squad. With the win, Illinois (16-3-2) earns the Big Ten's automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
"I think today was a typical Big Ten final, you've got two teams that have played three tough games in four days," said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield of the title game. "Michigan did what they've done well all season. They stayed well organized defensively, they fought hard in their box and they showed spurts of dangerousness as well. I think it was one of those games where we were just waiting to see who could crack the net first, and when the ball finally ended up in the back of their net, it was a huge sense of relief that we were able to find a way to put the ball in."
Illinois controlled most of the action in the scoreless first half, but were unable to get any solid scoring opportunities. The Illini took seven shots, three shots on goal and four corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes, but were hurt by five first half offside calls. The Wolverines were able to get off three shots; two on goal, but first team All-Big Ten goalkeeper Leisha Alcia was there to save them for the Orange and Blue.
The tide turned a bit at the start of the second half, as Michigan threatened several times in the first 20 minutes after the intermission. The Illini defense, which has been the strength of the team all season, was able to stifle most of UM's chances and when they failed to do so, Alcia was there to clean things up to keep the shutout intact.
Just when it started to look like the title game was heading to overtime, Illini junior Tara Hurless gave the Illini a 1-0 lead at the 79:14 mark. The Rockford native took a serve from sophomore Paula Faherty just inside the right side of the penalty box and ripped a rocket to the far post that whizzed by the diving Michigan goalkeeper. The goal was Hurless' team leading 13th of the season and proved to be her fourth game-winner. Faherty was credited with the assist, her second of the season.
"One of our objectives for us all year has been to stay wide," said a joyous Hurless after the game of the winning score. "Paula saw me out wide, the defender stepped up and thought I was offside, I got the ball, saw the keeper come near post and so I slotted it far post."
What makes Hurless' game-winner so heroic, is that less than a minute earlier she was thought to be lost for the game with an injury. When tying to make a tackle, Hurless' knee did not lock properly when she planted it, and she immediately went down to the ground. After hobbling to the sideline for a moment, she re-entered to score the game-winner just 38 seconds later.
"I went in for a tackle and it was foot to foot," said Hurless of the injury. "My knee twisted when I planted and I heard a pop, but there was no way I was coming out of the championship game."
Rayfield was impressed with the determination of her star forward to get back on the field. "To get hurt like she did," said Rayfield, "and say `I've got to get back on the field and do something for this team' and then to get the goal, there's not much of a better story than that."
Exactly three minutes after Hurless's score, freshman Jessica Bayne gave the Illini an insurance goal with her second goal of the tournament. Bayne took a pass from Christine Sinak, beat a defender one vs. one and ripped a shot far post from just outside the right side of the penalty box. The shot tipped off of UM keeper Megan Tuura's hands and went in. The goal was unassisted and was Bayne's seventh of the season.
As usual, the Illini defense was outstanding, earning its school record sixth shutout in a row and its 13th of the season. Alcia made five saves on the day, while Tuura stopped three shots for the Wolverines, but allowed the two Illini goals. For the game, Illinois held a slight 11-10 advantage in shots, but dominated 7-1 on corner kicks.
"Our defense has just been incredible," said Rayfield. "Not just our backs and our goalkeeper, who obviously have been tremendous, but our whole team defense. Our front-runners defend, our midfielders defend, Paula Faherty, Jen Smith, Chris Sinak and Laura Redmond, when they defend, it makes it a lot easier on our defense. I think after we got the first goal, our defense started to play even better and said `we are not going to let them back in this game now.'"
Game Summary * #11 Illinois vs. Michigan * Big Ten Tournament - Final * 11/9/03 * Madison, Wisc.
Team (Seed) - 1st - 2nd - Final
Shots: ILL 11, MICH 10; SOG: ILL 5, MICH 5; Saves: ILL 5 (Alcia 5), MICH 3 (Tuura 3, 2 GA); Corner Kicks: ILL 7, MICH 1
2003 Big Ten All-Tournament Team
Kelly Campbell Illinois
Tara Hurless on being named Tournament Offensive MVP...
Head Coach Janet Rayfield on how it felt to win the title...
Head Coach Janet Rayfield on the team staying focused for the NCAA Tournament...
Head Coach Janet Rayfield on Kelly Campbell winning defensive MVP honors...
Kelly Campbell on winning Defensive MVP of the tournament...
2. Illinois has earned six consecutive shutouts, breaking the school record of five, which was set earlier this season. Illinois has not allowed a goal since they tied Purdue 1-1 back on Oct. 20. Since allowing that goal vs. Purdue, the Illini have shutout their opponents for 610 consecutive minutes, which is a new school record, breaking the old mark of 475 minutes set earlier this season.
3. Illinois now has 13 shutouts on the season, which is a school record and is the second highest total in Big Ten History. Penn State holds the conference record with 17 shutouts in 2000.
4. With the 2-0 shutout victory over Michigan in the title game, the Illini became just the second team in Big Ten Tournament history to win the title without giving up a goal. Wisconsin is the only other team to do so, winning the title with three shutouts in the inaugural tournament in 1994.
5. To get an indication of Illinois' dominance in this year's Big Ten Tournament, note the fact that all of the its games were decided by two goals, while every other game was decided by one goal or in penalty kicks. In the three games, Illinois out-shot its opponents 48-20 while out-scoring them 6-0.
6. The title game victory was Illinois' 16th win of the season, which is a new school record for wins in a season. The old Illinois record was 14 in 2001.
7. The Orange and Blue have now won six games in a row, which is a new school record. Prior to Sunday's victory, the Illini had one five games in a row on four different occasions, in 1998, '99, 2001 and earlier this season.
8. Illinois is now unbeaten in its last eight games dating back to the 2-0 loss to Penn State on Oct. 12, tying the school record for games without a loss set earlier this season. The Illini have now lost only once in their last 17 games, going 14-1-2 after starting the season 2-2.
9. Junior GK Leisha Alcia earned another shutout of the season in Saturday's final, extending her school record for shutouts in a season to 12 and her career shutout record to 16. The 12 shutouts this year is the second highest total in Big Ten History, behind only Emily Oleksiuk 15.4 shutouts for Penn State in 2000.
10. Alcia lowered her goals-against average to 0.47 with the shutout on Friday, which keeps her on pace to break the Big Ten season GAA record of 0.70, currently held by Indiana's Chrissy Heubi in 2000.
11. Junior striker Tara Hurless score the game-winning goal in Sunday's final and had two assists in Friday's semifinal victory, giving her 13 goals and four assists on the season. Hurless has a history of coming up big in the Big Ten Tournament. During her freshman season in 2001, Hurless scored four goals in the tournament, including three in an opening round win over Iowa and the game-winner a 2-1 OT win over Michigan in the semifinals. Last season, she assisted on three Illini scores in Illinois' 4-3 comeback win over Penn State in the quarterfinals, tying the Big Ten record for assists in a game.