Ella Masar leads the Illini into the Nike Tiger Invitational this weekend with matches against South Carolina and Missouri.
Aug. 24, 2006
Nike Tiger Invitational
Friday, Aug. 25
ILLINOIS vs. South Carolina 5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 27
ILLINOIS at Missouri 1 p.m.
Pulling Rank: The Illini grabbed their third-straight top-15 preseason ranking from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, taking the No. 13 spot in the first poll of the year. Illinois was also ranked No. 15 by Soccer Buzz and picked second in the Big Ten by conference coaches.
EZ to Return: While Team Canada's loss to China in the FIFA U-20 World Championships on Wednesday was disappointing to America's northern neighbors, it will allow Illini defender Emily Zurrer to rejoin her collegiate teammates sooner than expected. Zurrer will be available next weekend at Texas A&M and Texas.
Fresh Effect: After two exhibition matches, it's easy to see that the vaunted Illini freshman class will have an early impact on the 2006 season. Chichi Nweke scored three goals at Ohio, while Courtney Bell knocked in a pair at Ohio and notched an assist against No. 25 Marquette.
Fifth-Year Faherty: After sitting out the 2005 campaign with a stress fracture in her knee, midfielder Paula Faherty has returned for her senior season. Faherty didn't let her soccer skills fall by the wayside during the time off, though, as she practiced with the team during the latter part of 2005 served as the head soccer coach at Urbana High School, leading the Tigers to the IHSA sectional final.
McD Joins Illini: The Illini soccer coaching staff staged a reunion with the hiring of Marcia McDermott as an assistant coach this summer. Both Janet Rayfield and Dale Armstrong served as McDermott's assistants at Arkansas in the early 1990s. McDermott has a wealth of experience both collegiately and professionally, taking Northwestern to the Sweet Sixteen in 1998 and led the Carolina Courage to the 2002 WUSA title as the only female coach in the league.
No. 13 (NSCAA; No. 15 Soccer Buzz) Illinois opens the season at the Nike Tiger Invitational hosted by the University of Missouri. The Illini face South Carolina at 5 p.m. on Friday and take on the host Tigers at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Scouting the Gamecocks
South Carolina looks to rebound in 2006 after a 2005 campaign in which the Gamecocks went 6-12-0. But the record may be a bit misleading as USC dropped eight matches by one goal a year ago. The Gamecocks scored only 24 goals, but their leading goal-scorer, Trinidad national team member Darcel Mollon, returns, as does All-SEC midfielder Ashley Kirk, who scored three goals in 2005. The Gamecocks have moved a pair of midfielders back to shore up their defense and both Lindsay Thorstenson and Laura Armstrong return in goal.
Scouting the Tigers
Missouri enters the 2006 season ranked in the top 20 in the Central Region by Soccer Buzz, as the Tigers are receiving votes in the online magazine's poll. Mizzou brought in the No. 44 freshman class in the nation, fifth-best in the Central Region, by Soccer Buzz, as well. The Tigers return a pair of seniors in the back and two more in the midfield, plus a top-100 recruit in the back in Crystal Wagner. However, Mizzou is without graduated forwards Amber Swinehart and Jennifer Nobis, who combined for 56 points in 2005.
The Illini went 2-0 in the exhibition season, handling Ohio 8-0 and defeating No. 25 Marquette 2-1. Against Ohio, Chichi Nweke recorded three goals and Courtney Bell notched two, while Kristy Weeks, Kara Gostisha and Marti Desjarlais each added one. Illinois' defense was smothering, allowing just one shot on goal, which came in the final 30 seconds of the match.
Two days later against the No. 25 Golden Eagles, Illinois jumped ahead early with goals by Ella Masar in the second minute and Weeks in the 21st minute to go up 2-0. Marquette exposed the Illini defense in the 42nd minute, cutting the margin to 2-1 at halftime. But Illinois controlled the second half and held on for a 2-1 win.
* Complete game notes can be found in the PDF at the top of the page.