Michigan upsets Illini at tournament

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

Eighth-seeded Michigan used its home-field advantage at the Big Ten tournament on Friday as it pulled off its second straight upset, defeating the Illini 2-1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., to advance to the tournament final against Wisconsin.

On Thursday the Wolverines upset No. 2 and previously undefeated Penn State 4-3 on a penalty kick shootout.

“I think we just ran into a team that was fighting for their lives,” said Illini head coach Janet Rayfield.

The Illini scored first as senior forward Eva Strickland scored her fifth goal of the season in the 24th minute. Junior forward Jessica Bayne got the assist by floating a pass into the box, and Strickland managed to get her head on it and direct the ball into the net.

Five minutes later the Wolverines were level as Wolverines forward Melissa Dobbyn scored her 12th goal of the season, as she collected a free kick, rounded Illini senior goalie Rachel Frank and poked the ball into an empty net.

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“We let her run behind us, and we thought she was offside, but the ref ruled differently,” Rayfield said.

Both teams were not able to add to the score before halftime, but the Illini out shot the Wolverines 12-7 in the first half.

Another set piece would be the undoing of the Illini, as this time Judy Coffman drilled a free kick that beat Frank high to give Michigan a 2-1 lead.

“It was really frustrating to play great soccer and not score goals with the chances we are creating,” Rayfield said. “We are still playing some of the best soccer we’ve played all year.”

The Illini pushed players forward in search of the tying goal, but their pressure did not get the necessary goal that they needed.

The Illini out shot Michigan 12-4 in the second half, but they were not able to turn that into a goal.

With this win, Michigan avenged a 3-2 loss to the Illini in the regular season and will find out Monday afternoon whether they will make the NCAA tournament.

“I would rate our chances of making the tournament as 60/40, but with the committee it is always 50/50,” Rayfield said. “The whole process is too hard to predict.”