Former Illini Ella Masar returned to Illinois as a member of the Chicago Red Stars, scoring a goal in the exhibition.
April 3, 2010
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Former Illini soccer players Ella Masar and Jackie Santacaterina enjoyed their return to Champaign on Saturday afternoon, as the Chicago Red Stars won 9-0 over Illinois in an exhibition match at the Illinois Soccer Stadium. Santacaterina played the full 90 minutes for the Red Stars in the midfield, while Masar tallied a goal and an assist on her birthday.
The Red Stars started quickly, with Kosovare Asllani scoring in the sixth minute on a through ball from Masar. The Red Stars would go on to score four more times in the first half, with Masar's goal coming in the 20th minute, assisted by Brazilian National Team member Cristiane.
"This was the first game in preseason I felt pressure because it's my birthday and everybody was expecting me to score a goal," Masar said. "When that went in a weight was lifted off my shoulders...To come back here is fun, especially because it's my hometown. It's always fun to come back and see the fans. Today Illinois had a little bit of a rough go, but I always think they're one of the best college teams in the country."
Santacaterina was also excited to be back on the field that she spent four years of collegiate soccer on from 2006-09.
"Following that last game on our senior day, it was tough because you think you never get a chance to come back," Santacaterina said. "It's been awesome. (Training camp with the Red Stars) has been some of the most stressful couple weeks I've been a part of, but it's been really good for me. It stretches you pretty thin, but I've come out feeling pretty good about it."
Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield was especially proud of her two former players and of what they have accomplished.
"It's great to see Ella, and when she showed up on the sideline with the captain's arm band around her, you just have a great sense of pride," Rayfield said. "The second Jackie got off the bus with a Red Stars jersey on, it's the same thing. You feel great enjoyment and pride for them getting to this level. I thought Jackie played well today and Ella played well, so I hope they continue to do that and have a great season."
The Red Stars would continue their fast pace, scoring four goals in the second half, with Kosovare scoring her second, third and fourth goals of the game in the later part of the second half. The Illini managed just one dangerous scoring opportunity against Chicago, with sophomore Marissa Mykines finding freshman Marissa Holden with a beautiful through ball before being denied by the Red Star's goalkeeper.
Freshman goalkeeper Steph Panozzo made six saves against the gifted professionals.
"In terms of getting something out of this game, we're trying to expose our players to a higher level and obviously we saw that today," Rayfield said. "The speed of play was unbelievable and our individual defending at that level isn't where it needs to be and even our collective team defending. What we're going get out of this is some really good video to show us exactly the things we need to work on to get better. That's why you play these games."
Both Masar and Santacaterina appreciate that they are playing on the same team again after playing together at Illinois for two years in 2006 and 2007. "It's great," said Masar. "I lived with Jacks for two years and she's one of my best friends, so to have her out here and to always have someone here who knows what you can do is great."
Illinois has three matches left in the spring season, playing Missouri in St. Louis on April 10 and then playing a doubleheader against Marquette and Milwaukee at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium on April 24th.