Defender Mary Therese McDonnell and the Illini travel to Florida to face the Gators in the NCAA first round on Friday.
Nov. 9, 2005
Illinois travels to Florida, where it faces the 20th-ranked Gators in the first round of the NCAA tournament Nov. 11 at 4 p.m. The winner of that contest faces the Florida State-Florida Atlantic winner Nov. 13 at noon.
Illinois Trends: The Fighting Illini are...
...4-4-0 all-time in the NCAA tournament
...2-2-0 on the road in the NCAA tournament
...3-2-0 in the NCAA tournament under Rayfield
...8-0-0 when scoring two or more goals
...7-1-0 when ahead at halftime
...9-2-1 when scoring first
...2-2-1 against ranked teams this season
Scouting the Gators
No. 20 Florida enters the NCAA Tournament off a loss to Auburn in the SEC tournament, but the Gators have won seven of their last nine games dating back to Oct. 2. In that span, Florida has outscored its opponents 20-6. The Gators are one of the most balanced teams Illinois has faced, as six players have at least four goals and 13 players have combined to score 42 goals this season. Much like the Illini, Florida has outshot and out-cornered its opponents by a wide margin (271-172 and 107-58, respectively), but has also racked up 328 fouls, 21 yellow cards and a red card on the season. Forward KeLeigh Hudson leads the Gators with six goals, but forward Cherry Pickman's five goals and four assists give her the team points lead (14). Melanie Booth also has five goals and three assists (13 points) for Florida. In goal, the Gators rotate Brittni Goodwin and Jen Gardner by halves, with each of them playing nearly equal minutes throughout the season. Goodwin has a 0.82 GAA, while Gardner carries a 1.27 mark.
Getting to Know the 'Noles
The top team in the four-team bracket, Florida State comes into the NCAA tournament 17-3-0, with losses to North Carolina and Virginia (twice). The Seminoles have outscored opponents 57-15 on the season, 35-6 in the second half. Florida State appears to have above average speed, with 116 corner kicks and 64 offsides on the season. Sel Kuralay leads FSU with 15 goals - six game-winners - and eight assists (38 points), while Viola Odebrecht has 25 points (nine goals - five GWG - and seven assists). India Trotter has contributed eight goals and nine assists (25 points) for the season. The 'Noles are a bit more settled in goal than Florida, with Ali Mims proving to be a force between the pipes. Mims has racked up a 0.79 GAA in 1,719 minutes, and has seven shutouts on the season.
Checking Out the Owls
Florida Atlantic brings a season mark of 16-3-1 into NCAA action after capturing the Atlantic Sun Conference's automatic berth. The Owls are no pushover, however, outscoring their competition 48-8 this season, 26-4 in the first half. FAU also has outshot and out-cornered its opponents by a healthy margin (344-133 and 110-39, respectively), and, like Florida, rotates its goalkeepers. Megan Coyne and Jessica Badders have split time almost equally in goal this season, with Coyne holding a 0.10 GAA and Badders posting a 0.70 mark. For the season, FAU has shut out its opponents 16 times. Susanna Lehtinen leads the Owl offense with 10 goals and 10 assists, including five game-winning goals. Danielle DiLeo's seven goals and three assists (17 points) is next on the team's scoring list. FAU has been vulnerable away from Boca Raton, as all three of its losses have come outside of FAU Field.
Follow the Action
Live stats (all games) and live audio (Florida game only) will be available at www.gatorzone.com. Following the game, a recap, including quotes, and a box score will be available at fightingillini.com.
Illinois has never faced a team from the Sunshine State and has played only three Southeastern Conference schools in its nine-year history. The Illini are 1-2 all-time versus the SEC, defeating Georgia in 2003 but losing to Kentucky in 2002 and Auburn in 2003. Florida and Illinois share a common opponent in Wisconsin-Milwaukee this season. The Gators beat UWM 2-0 on Sept. 11 after Illinois tied the Panthers two weeks earlier.
Illinois went 1-1 at the Big Ten Tournament, defeating Minnesota 1-0 before falling to host and No. 8-seed Michigan 2-1 in the semifinals. The Illini grabbed the lead in the 30th minute when Jessica Bayne's shot was blocked by Gopher keeper Molly Schneider, but the rebound went off Bayne and rolled into the goal at 29:46. Illinois allowed only one shot in the first half and four for the game, outshooting Minnesota 21-4. The Gophers were never able to get a great scoring opportunity as the Orange and Blue won its seventh straight conference tournament opener 1-0.
Hoping to have the benefit of extra rest after Michigan had to go to penalty kicks to take out top-seed Penn State, the Illini seemed stunned when the Wolverines played just as hard as they had the night before. When Eva Strickland scored in the 25th minute off a feed into the box from Bayne, Illinois appeared to relax. Michigan's Melissa Dobbyn took advantage of that, knocking in a through-ball after a free kick on which Dobbyn appeared to be offside but no call was made, tying the game 1-1 at halftime. Judy Coffman fired in a free kick from 25 yards over Illini keeper Rachel Frank's head at 57:10 for the eventual game-winning goal as the Wolverines knocked Illinois out of the tournament 2-1.
Karniski Rakes in Awards, Records
After four years of playing a relatively unassuming but steady role in the Illini backfield, senior defender Christen Karniski's name has begun to crop up at the top of multiple lists. She recently was named the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year and ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District. Karniski also recently broke the Illinois career games started record by starting against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.
Record-Breaker: Simply by starting Illinois' match against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, senior defender Christen Karniski broke the career games started record previously held by Tara Hurless. Karniski, who has now started all 87 games of her career, passed Hurless, who started 86. Karniski is now in second place on the games played list with 87, behind Hurless, who holds that record with 88 games played.
Co-Defensive Player of Year: As recognition of her contribution in the Illini backfield, senior Christen Karniski was named the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year along with Penn State's Lindsay Bach. Karniski was also a member of the All-Big Ten first team and was Illinois' sportsmanship honoree. Midfielder Marti Desjarlais and defender Emily Zurrer were named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
Academic All-District: Christen Karniski was recently named first team Academic All-District by ESPN the Magazine and CoSIDA. Karniski, an English major who plans on entering the publishing field, will advance to consideration for Academic All-America recognition.
Campbell, N. Karniski Can Play, Too
After starting at Michigan, senior defender Kelly Campbell is now third on the games started list with 85, and could also surpass Hurless' 86 games if the Illini make a deep postseason run. She is also fourth on the career games played list with 86, and Natasha Karniski currently sits fifth on the games played list with 85.
Orange and Blue Academics
Christen isn't the only Karniski excelling in the classroom. Twin sister Natasha also was named first team Academic All-District by ESPN the Magazine and CoSIDA. Natasha, an integrative biology major, also will move on for consideration for Academic All-America recognition.
Illini Iron Women
Unlike Florida, who has put a different starting lineup on the field for each game this season, Illinois has started only nine different lineups. The Illini have also used what had become their "regular" starting lineup seven times before starting goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens was injured. Eight Illini have played at least 70 percent of the team's minutes this season. Defenders Christen Karniski (1,893 minutes - 100 percent), Mary Therese McDonnell (1,869 - 99 pct.), Emily Zurrer (1,821 - 96 pct.) and Kelly Campbell (1,732 - 91 pct.) lead the way, giving Illinois a dependable back line. Goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens played all but five minutes before breaking her fibula at Purdue, and midfielder Marti Desjarlais has played 74 percent of the minutes in her freshman season. Forwards Eva Strickland (76 pct.) and Jessica Bayne (72 pct.) round out the Illini who have played more than 70 percent of Illinois' minutes this season.
Illinois will be venturing into relatively foreign territory when it travels to Florida this weekend, as the Gators are averaging 1,494 fans per home game, or nearly three times Illinois' home average. The Illini's season-high attendance was 854 against then-No. 17 ranked Nebraska on Sept. 2. In comparison, Florida has had only one home game under 850 this season, with 824 fans watching the Gators beat LSU 2-1. Over 3,000 fans watched Florida State upend Florida 4-2 on Sept. 16, but Friday's early game time could prevent many fans from reaching the field by the kick-off time of Illinois-Florida. Illinois' home field attendance record is 1,046, which Florida has topped in seven of its 10 home games in 2005.
McBayne, Action Hero
Junior forward Jessica Bayne has become the scoring threat the Illini were seeking going into the season, leading the team with eight goals. More impressively, Bayne has scored all eight of her goals since the start of Big Ten play on Sept. 23. She also currently holds a four-game point streak, the fourth-longest in school history. After starting the season slowly, Bayne has scored seven points in the last four games and 17 of her team-leading 21 points in the last 12 matches. Bayne had a breakout weekend against No. 16 Wisconsin and Northwestern scoring three goals, including the game-winner against the Wildcats.
Calling All Freshmen
Midfielder Marti Desjarlais and defender Emily Zurrer both were named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team announced prior to the Big Ten Tournament. With that pair of Illini making the squad, Illinois now has had a member of the All-Freshmen Team in each of the past four years. This is the first time two Illini have made the All-Freshmen Team.
Campbell's Injury Soup
Defender Kelly Campbell has overcome a barrage of injuries in her final season. Campbell suffered a broken nose and concussion during practice before the first home match against Nebraska. She then rebroke her nose at Penn State when a ball ricocheted and smacked her in the face. Campbell has also suffered a sprained knee and broken finger throughout the season. Amazingly, she has played all but 160 minutes this season, missing only one start.
First One to the Corner Wins
It seems uncanny how similar Illinois and Florida appear, especially in regard to corner kicks. The Illini have 111 corners on the season, while UF has 107, meaning Friday's game could be an endline-to-endline battle from the start.