Cooke scores key goal

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

Freshman forward Charlotte Cooke scored the golden goal in the last minute of the second overtime as the Illini defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 2-1 on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.

Cooke received a pass in the box from senior forward Eva Strickland, turned and shot past Buckeye goalie Staci Sinkway.

“I hope that the goal boosts her confidence,” Illini head coach Janet Rayfield said. “The hesitancy that she had at the beginning of the year was gone in this game and it was justice that she scored the winning goal for us because she had an excellent game.”

The Illini are now 3-0-0 in the Big Ten and face No. 2 Penn State next weekend. Illinois’ win ended a two-year home unbeaten streak for Ohio State.

“With Ohio State being the only team we played this weekend, it allowed us to focus on this game,” Rayfield said. “This team is smart enough to know that every game in the Big Ten matters.”

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The two teams played a scoreless first half in which the Illini outshot the Buckeyes 12-5 and had four corner kicks to their zero.

The scoreless tie was broken in the 17th minute of the second half when Buckeye midfielder Lisa Collison took a feed from fellow midfielder Danielle Dietrich and beat sophomore goalie Lindsey Carstens with a low shot from the penalty area.

Collison’s goal was her seventh of the year, and leads the team in that category.

The Illini almost tied the game in 27th minute but junior forward Jessica Bayne hit the post with her shot.

The Illini managed to tie the game in the 31st minute of the second half when sophomore forward Ella Masar made a run to the endline and sent over a cross for senior forward Eva Strickland to head over the goalie from the edge of the penalty area.

“Eva has been one of the most consistent forwards we have,” Rayfield said. “She had been holding the ball for us, and just the commitment to make that run for her goal was outstanding.”

Ohio State responded by putting a little bit a pressure on the Illini. Therefore, the Illini did not have another shot in the half, while the Buckeyes had four, but only one of those shots was on target.

The first overtime was uneventful as there was only one shot in the 10-minute period by Masar.

The second overtime produced a couple more chances before Cooke scored the first goal of her Illini career to win the game.

The Illini had 23 shots overall in the game with 11 of those shots being on target.

“These types of games are a lot easier on your heart when you win,” Rayfield said. “These close games are great experiences for us, it will help us in the NCAA tournament when the win is important.”