Women’s soccer players receive spots on national all-star teams

By Steve Contorno

Even though their season ended over a week ago with a 1-0 loss to Florida State in the Sweet 16, the Illinois women’s soccer team continued to rack up season awards, as two Illini athletes were named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas All-American teams. Junior forward Ella Masar was named to the All-American second team and sophomore defender Emily Zurrer was named to the All-American third team.

It is only the third time in the program’s ten-year history that the same organization named two Illini players to a season all-star team.

Masar, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, balanced Illinois’ offensive attack, tallying nine goals and nine assists. Her 27 points led all Illini scorers, and the 15 that came in conference games tied for the best in the Big Ten. No one was better in the clutch than Masar – her three game-winning goals in 10 conference games topped the Big Ten.

Her most impressive game was against Penn State on Oct. 1 when she netted the tying and game-winning goal in the second half to carry the Illini to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory.

Masar was also named to the TopDrawerSoccer Team of the Season fifth team. The junior forward ranks in the top five all-time in game-winning goals and assists.

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    “To answer the question how she brought her game to this level: absolute, pure work ethic,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Even now, I have to ask that athlete to take some time off and to not touch a soccer ball. It’s almost like I’m telling her not to breathe.

    “The drive that she has to make herself better, and you put that in the environment and expectations we create here, you’re going to produce someone who will maximize their abilities. Ella definitely put the work in.”

    Zurrer, the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year, also was named to a TopDrawerSoccer Team of the Season. Her stellar defensive play impressed their voters to place her on the first team.

    The Illini defender missed the team’s first four games playing for the U-20 Canadian National team. During that span, the Illini allowed nine goals. When she returned on Sept. 14, the Illini posted back-to-back shutouts. Zurrer was also the first non-goalie to earn Big Ten Player of the Week twice in one season.

    “We have to be very proud of what this team did and excited about the accomplishments they had this season,” Rayfield said. “Looking at all the individual awards, we had so many positive things that occurred this year.”

    Illinois is one of nine teams to have multiple players honored. The awards mark the 15th and 16th time an Illini player was named an All-American by the NSCAA.