Four Illini snag Big Ten honors

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Online Poster

By Derek Barichello

The Illini soccer team finished the regular season with the second ranked defense in the Big Ten -ÿand it was rewarded on Sunday.

The Illini had four members receive All-Big Ten honors this season. Three of the four selections were from the Illini backfield.

Junior defender Kelly Campbell was named first team All-Big Ten, and junior defender Christen Karniski was selected to the second team. It was their first All-Big Ten honor. Joining her teammates, freshman defender Mary Therese McDonnell was chosen to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.

On the offensive side of the ball, senior forward Tara Hurless was named first team All-Big Ten for the second straight year.

“I think the selection reflected our team nicely,” said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield. “Our defense is an important part of what we do and it shows that our defense is respected.”

For Campbell, the selection was a long time coming. She had started every game for the past two seasons and had played a key role in the Illini’s defensive success.

“I was excited for Kelly,” Rayfield said. “The conference is now starting to recognize what she’s capable of doing.”

Karniski also played a key role in the Illini backfield. She contributed on offense as well, scoring two goals and recording three assists this fall.

“Christen was respected just as much for her offensive abilities,” Rayfield said. “She is also a great defender.”

McDonnell led a strong freshman class this fall, starting 10 games this season and recording one assist.

The defensive players believe the honor is as much the team’s as their own.

“Our team has done well defensively,” Karniski said. “Our individual recognitions are just reflections of that. It says a lot for our team and we are proud.”

Hurless’ selection came as no surprise. She led the Illini with 10 goals this season. While at Illinois, she broke the career assists record, the career game-winning goals record and ranks second in career goals with 45, only two behind former Illini Emily Brown.

In addition, Hurless was selected to the Big Ten All-Tournament team. She recorded two goals and two assists in the tournament.

The big surprise for the Illini was the absence of senior goalkeeper Leisha Alcia from the team. Alcia, who was not only an All-Big Ten first team honor last season, but also an All-American, was not selected.

Alcia recorded seven shutouts on the season and had a goals against average of 0.79.

“It’s tough when you have a lot of good goalkeepers in the conference,” Rayfield said. “Obviously you need the season to back it up and Erin McLeod of Penn State had a great season and had the season to back it up. With the conference selecting two goalkeepers on the second team, I felt that Leisha probably belonged on that list.”