Illini battles to win in first Big Ten contest

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illini came into this weekend off of a surprising loss to Indiana State last Sunday, but they recovered to record a pair of 3-2 victories this weekend in wet conditions at the Illinois Soccer Stadium.

On Friday, they defeated the Northwestern Wildcats in a physical game behind goals from senior forward Natasha Karniski, sophomore Mary Therese McDonnell and junior forward Jessica Bayne.

“It is nice to get goals against Northwestern to give us some confidence,” Karniski said.

The Illini went up 2-0 in the first 15 minutes of the match, but the Wildcats started to pressure the Illini, moving to within a one goal deficit on a strike by Jenny Dunn a minute before halftime.

Before that, Wildcats midfielder Tabitha Lowey had two chances to score, but she wasn’t able to convert on either opportunity.

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“The style of the game changed as our forwards stopped holding the ball, and we weren’t able to play the ball on the ground,” head coach Janet Rayfield said.

The Illini were able to reclaim their two goal-advantage three minutes after halftime on a goal by Jessica Bayne, but seven minutes later the Wildcats answered with the aid of sophomore goalie Lindsey Carstens.

Dunn managed to get behind the Illini defense and she crossed the ball close to Carstens, who tried to put a hand on it but couldn’t stop the ball from going into the net.

Three minutes after that, the Wildcats were unlucky not to tie the game, as defender Katie Wright hit the crossbar with a hard shot from 20 yards away.

The Illini then managed to hold off the Wildcats for its first conference victory of the season.

“We battled, but our timing just wasn’t right tonight,” Rayfield said.

On Sunday, it took the Illini 103 minutes, but they managed to overcome Wisconsin 3-2 on forward Emily Zurrer’s second goal of the season off a corner kick.

“It was a perfect ball and I got my head on it and it went in,” Zurrer said.

The Illini jumped on the Badgers with a fourth minute-goal by Bayne.

Eva Strickland sent in a pass, which was deflected by a Wisconsin defender into the path of Bayne, who passed it under the arm of Wisconsin goalie Lynn Murray.

The Illini doubled their advantage in the 15th minute as Bayne was credited with her second goal of the game.

She sent a cross into the box with her right foot, which was deflected by a defender past Murray.

Murray did not have an easy time with the wet conditions as she dropped the first two balls sent in by the Illini, but they were unable to make her pay for the mistakes.

Down 2-0, the Badgers came out of halftime and pulled to within a goal back in the first minute of the second half.

Amy Vermeulen was in the right place, as she scored off a rebound that hit the post and came back into play.

The Badgers continued to pile on the pressure, and were rewarded with the tying goal in the 63rd minute as Marisa Brown was able to score despite Carstens getting a piece of the shot.

“We had a couple of breakdowns, and the field conditions were tough as well,” Zurrer said.

Following the goal, most of the game was played in the Illini end, as Wisconsin went searching for a regulation time winner. Neither team came close to getting a last minute goal.

The first 10 minutes of overtime was played in the midfield; no chances were created until the third minute of the second overtime, when Zurrer managed to get her head on a corner kick and direct into the net.

“Today our fitness got us a game,” Rayfield said.