Illinois dominates IOWA 4-1 in final home game of year

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

The Illinois seniors’ memory of its last home game will be fond as they defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-1 Friday night at Illinois Soccer Stadium.

Illini head coach Janet Rayfield started five seniors in their final game before the Big Ten Tournament next week in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

These changes did not seem to have a negative effect on the team, as they created its first chance in the fourth minute when junior forward Eva Strickland curled a shot toward the far post, but Hawkeyes goalie Erin MacIssac punched the ball away.

The Hawkeyes managed to put a scare in the Illini as midfielder Ashley Schlueter hit a 20 yard shot that wrong-footed Illini senior goalie Rachel Frank, but it just went wide of the goal.

After their initial chance in the fourth minute, the Illini had a hard time keeping possession and were not able to continue their early momentum because of their three offside calls in the first 15 minutes.

“Credit Iowa, there wasn’t a lot of room in the midfield and I think we can play better, but credit goes to Iowa,” Rayfield said.

The Illini almost broke the deadlock in the 38th minute as senior forward Natasha Karniski got her head onto a corner, but MacIssac got down low and blocked it away. Karniski managed to get to the rebound, but her shot went off the post.

Karniski also missed a penalty shot in the 38th minute when junior forward Jessica Bayne was taken down in the penalty area, only for Karniski to hit her shot too close to MacIsaac and it was saved.

Karniski would hit the post again in the 75th minute off of a low cross by Masar that eluded the goalie.

“It was frustrating, but I’m glad my teammates were able to score and we were able to win,” Karniski said.

The Illini finally broke the deadlock in the 41st minute as Bayne was able to score off of a cross by sophomore midfielder Kara Gostisha.

Eleven seconds into the second half Masar pushed the ball ahead of her, split the Hawkeye defense and chipped the ball just over the body of the onrushing MacIsaac.

“I just got the ball and saw a gap,” Masar said.

The Hawkeyes almost got its first goal in the 60th minute, but Katelyn Quinn hit the crossbar from a free kick. Quinn did get her goal two minutes later as a through ball eluded the Illini defense and Quinn reached the ball before Frank and poked it under her body to bring the Hawkeyes to within a goal.

The Illini restored its two goal advantage in the 38th minute as freshman forward Charlotte Cooke scored her second goal of the season into an empty net after a low cross from freshman forward Jessica Levitt.

Senior defender Kelly Campbell finished off the scoring in the 39th minute as she crashed home her own rebound from the penalty that she took that struck the crossbar.

“We could’ve easily scored six goals tonight,” Masar said.

The Illini finish the season in fourth place in the Big Ten and will play Minnesota, who beat them 2-1 in Minnesota three weeks ago.

“This team has done a great job creating chances, but I’m hoping that all the misses will be finishes by tournament time,” Rayfield said.