Illini soccer falls to Florida State

By Steve Contorno

For the second straight season, the Illinois women’s soccer team was knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Florida State. On Sunday, the No. 3 seeded Illini (16-8-0) fell to the No. 2 seeded Seminoles (17-3-4) 1-0 in Tallahassee, Fla. in front of a FSU postseason-record attendance of 1,206.

Florida State allowed the Illini just one shot in the first period and only six in the game. Last season, the Seminoles knocked out of the tourney Illinois in the second round of the tournament in a 2-1 victory.

“Our goal was to limit them to 10 shots and we did that,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “But that wasn’t enough in the end. They converted on one, and credit to them, it was a great goal. We didn’t give them a goal; they earned that one. We just needed to have one of those ourselves to keep ourselves in this game.”

No. 5-ranked FSU scored the games only goal in the 19th minute when Katrin Schmidt of the Seminoles served a pass to the back post where Kelly Rowland was waiting. Rowland headed the ball past Illini goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens for her fifth goal of the season.

Both teams were shutout for the rest of the game. The Illini’s defense was aided by the play of Carstens who made several diving stops throughout the game to keep the lead from getting to more than one goal. But the FSU defense suffocated all the Illini’s weapons and allowed just one shot on goal for the entire game.

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All season, Rayfield has said the key to Illinois’ success is their ability to get their shots on target. Sunday’s game was one of the few times the Illini just weren’t able to finish the play strong.

“We thought if we could get a couple of corner kicks then we’d have a chance,” Rayfield said. “We did get the chance, we just didn’t finish it.”

The No. 15-ranked Illini had chances in the second half, but many of them were stifled by the Seminole’s formidable defense. The Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, junior forward Ella Masar, was held to just one shot despite her hustle down the flank. She did however draw a foul early in the second half that led to one of Illinois’ prime scoring opportunities.

The ensuing free kick from freshman defender Brittany Garrett found fellow freshman midfielder Jackie Santacaterina who headed the ball to the far post. Unfortunately for the Illini, the Seminole defense was waiting and deflected the ball out of the box.

With just under four minutes left in the game, the Illini saw another prime scoring chance blocked away by the Seminoles when junior defender Mary Therese McDonnell stole the ball and sent it up ahead. Florida State’s keeper Ali Mims came out of the box to play McDonnell’s pass but freshman forward Chichi Nweke blocked Mims’ attempt to clear it. The ball bounced to the right flank where Garrett took a shot that was blocked to freshman forward Courtney Bell. Bell’s shot sailed high over the net.

Rayfield congratulated her players for one of the most lauded teams in the school’s history. While tying the team’s record for wins and matches played and making only their second ever Sweet 16 appearance, the Illini also captured the Big Ten’s first ever sweep of the conference awards, as they took home Offensive Player of the Year (Masar), Defensive Player of the Year (Emily Zurrer) and Freshman of the Year (Nweke).

“I’m proud of my team and the way they battled,” Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said. “We came back in the second half and settled down a little bit. We played with some confidence and gave Florida State all they could handle.”