Sophomore midfielder Marissa Mykines scored the first goal of the 2009 season last week against Illinois State.
Aug. 26, 2009
Game 2: #13 Illinois (1-0-0) vs. #18 Colorado (1-0-0)
Friday, Aug. 28 // 5 p.m. CT // University of Denver Soccer Stadium // Denver, Colo. The Series: Friday marks the first-ever match-up between Illinois and Colorado.
All-time, Illinois is:
19-37-2 against ranked opponents
70-28-3 in non-conference games
25-10-3 in neutral site games
43-58-8 on the road
Illinois Heads West for DU Invitational
The No. 13 Fighting Illini will hit the road for the first time in 2009, traveling to Denver for the DU Invitational and a pair of important non-conference match-ups. Illinois will get a chance to defeat a ranked opponent when it faces No. 18 Colorado on Friday, Aug. 28, then play host team Denver on Sunday, Aug. 30.
In other match-ups at the DU Invitational, Denver will play St. Mary's on Friday following the Colorado-Illinois game, and Colorado will face St. Mary's on Sunday at 12 p.m. CT. The tournament marks the first matches ever played at the brand new University of Denver Soccer Stadium.
Moving up the Polls
Illinois moved up four spots to No. 13 in the most recent NSCAA poll following the season-opening 4-0 win over Illinois State. The Orange and Blue were previously ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll. The No. 13 NSCAA ranking marks the highest for the Illini since Oct. 3, 2006, when they were No. 10.
Illini is also currently ranked No. 19 by Soccer Times, No. 20 by Soccer America and No. 22 by Top Drawer Soccer. Additionally, the Illini were the preseason pick to finish third in the Big Ten by the conference coaches.
Scouting the Buffaloes
No. 18 Colorado opened the 2009 season with an impressive 1-0 home win over Oklahoma State, which was then ranked No. 11 in the NSCAA preseason poll. Midfielder Kelly Butler scored the game's lone goal in the 63rd, while senior goalkeeper Kara Linder made three saves and was subsequently named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. Colorado made the 2008 NCAA Tournament field, and is led by U-20 U.S. National Team Player and preseason All-American Nikki Marshall.
About the Pioneers
Like Colorado, Denver also opened the season with a 1-0 home win as the Pioneers defeated Wyoming last Saturday with a goal from Kelli Breidenbach. Denver has won the past three Sun Belt Conference titles, and is the preseason favorite to win its fourth and return to the NCAA Tournament behind senior midfielder Lizzy Carlson. This weekend, Denver will be playing the first-ever matches at the brand new University of Denver Soccer Stadium.
Illinois Wins Opener 4-0 over ISU
The Orange and Blue cruised to victory in their season-opener last Friday at home, defeating Illinois State 4-0 with four different goal scorers. Sophomore Marissa Mykines scored the first goal of 2009 in the third minute on a rocket from 30 yards out, while junior Jordan Hilbrands scored less than a minute and a half later, connecting on a shot in the fifth minute. Two Illini scored the first goals of their careers, as Krystin Miller scored on a penalty kick in the 37th and Niki Read scored in the 73rd. Alexandra Kapicka notched her 10th career shutout in goal, making four saves.
Miller Makes Her Mark
Junior Krystin Miller had a memorable performance against Illinois State, as she was instrumental to the Illini win on both sides of the field. Making her first career start, Miller scored her first-ever goal in the 37th minute on a penalty kick. Then in the 54th, she headed away an Illinois State shot on goal to preserve the Illini shutout. Miller played all 90 minutes at center back, more minutes than she totalled in her first two seasons combined. She made a position switch from midfield to defense this season.
Illini Defeat Cincinnati in Exhibition
Illinois had just one exhibition match in preparation for 2009, beating Cincinnati 1-0 on Aug. 14 at the Ilinois Soccer Stadium. Junior forward Christina Sahly scored the lone goal in the 68th minute, beating the keeper to the far post after a through ball from sophomore Marissa Mykines. Freshman goalkeeper Steph Panozzo recorded three saves in 30 minutes of play, while the Illini were also boosted by strong performances from Danielle Kot and Julie Ewing.
Illinois may have put together its toughest schedule ever under head coach Janet Rayfield with its 2009 list of opponents. Ten of the 19 teams the Illini will face this season made the 2008 NCAA Tournament field, including College Cup participant UCLA and Portland, which advanced to the Elite Eight. Big years are expected again from the Bruins and Pilots, with Portland ranked No. 3 and UCLA No. 9 in the most recent NSCAA poll. In total, five of the Illini's opponents appear in the NSCAA rankings, including No. 18 Colorado.
Illinois TV and Radio Broadcasts
Illinois soccer will receive unprecedented exposure this season, with at least three games televised on the Big Ten Network and five games broadcast on WDWS AM 1400 (and also streamed on fightingillini.com).
The Illini's three matches on the BTN in 2009 tie them with Michigan State for the most televised games in the Big Ten. Illinois' game at Northwestern on Nov. 6 could also potentially be televised if it is chosen for what is now a Wildcard game. Below is a current list of the scheduled television and radio broadcasts:
Illinois on the Big Ten Network
Sunday, Sept. 27 vs. Minnesota // 1 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 25 at Penn State // 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 vs. Michigan State // 7 p.m.
Illinois on WDWS AM 1400
Friday, Aug. 21 vs. Illinois State // 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 4 vs. UCLA // 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 11 vs. Wisconsin // 1 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 22 vs. Ohio State // 6 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 1 vs. Michigan // 1 p.m.
One is the Magic Number
Illinois is an undefeated 16-0-2 dating back to 2007 when the team scores at least one goal. All nine of the Illini's losses in 2008 occurred when they were shut-out. The last time Illinois scored a goal and lost was Oct. 21, 2007, with a 2-1 defeat at Purdue.
Illini Nearly Unbeatable at Home
Illini losses at the Illinois Soccer Stadium have become a rarity, with the Orange and Blue posting a home record of 37-4-3 beginning in 2004. The Orange and Blue got the 2009 home slate off to a positive start, with a 4-0 home win over Illinois State on Aug. 21. In 2008, Illinois was 8-1-0 on its home turf to continue the dominating streak. The last time Illinois lost more than one game at home was in 2003 with a record of 8-3-1. Its best season at home was 2004, when the team went 8-0-1.
Kapicka Starts Year With Shutout
Goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka made four saves and collected her 10th career shutout against Illinois State, starting 2009 off right after a career season last year. In her first season as the starter, Kapicka finished 2008 with an 0.80 goals against average to rank third-best in the Big Ten and second all-time in school history. Additionally, she posted nine shutouts - good enough for the second-most in the conference - and allowed one or fewer goals in 19 of 23 games.
Kapicka's most memorable performance to date season came in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament against Missouri, where she tallied a career-high 11 saves and helped the Illini defeat the Tigers in a shootout and advance to the Sweet 16.
Nweke Looks to Continue Climb
Forward Chichi Nweke has already made her place in the Illinois offensive record books, and looks to continue climbing the charts in her senior season. Nweke currently ranks eighth in career points with 49, ninth in career goals (17) and 10th in career assists (15). She also holds the school record for goals in a game with six other players, with a hat trick against Utah in her freshman season.
Return of Dominant Defense
Illinois has become known under Janet Rayfield for its stiflying defense, with 2008 being no exception. The Illini allowed just 19 goals to its opponents, the second-fewest in school history. The Orange and Blue also tallied nine shutouts and allowed one or zero goals in 14 of their final 16 matches.
Although the Illini graduated three-time All-American Emily Zurrer and starter Jamie Alvis from their backline, plenty of experience returns for 2009. Junior centerback Danielle Kot did not miss a minute of play in 2008 on her way to earning All-Big Ten honors, and has started in 44 career games. Senior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka also played every minute of 2008, posting a 0.80 goals against average which is second-best in school history. Senior Brittany Garrett returns to the defense as well, starting all 23 games last season on the outside.
All-Big Ten Performers Return
Six members of the 2009 Illini squad have earned Big Ten accolades in past seasons. Senior Jackie Santacaterina was named to the All-Big Ten second team in both 2007 and 2008, while junior Danielle Kot was an All-Big Ten second team selection last season. Senior Chichi Nweke was the 2006 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and named to the All-Freshman team the same season, while Kot, Laura Knutson and Cory Steigerwald were selected to the 2007 Big Ten All-Freshman team. Additionally, senior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka was named to the 2008 Big Ten All-Tournament team.
Rayfield Coaches U.S. National Team
Head coach Janet Rayfield had a memorable July, as she served on the U.S. Women's National Team staff for its two matches against Canada on July 19 and 22. During that span, Rayfield served as an assistant under head coach Pia Sundhage, helping to train and evaluate the national team players. The U.S. won both matches against Canada 1-0.