Illini soccer loses home, season opener



By Steve Contorno

If Friday’s soccer match between Illinois and Missouri is any precursor to Saturday’s football game, the Illini won’t be in for a treat.

For the second straight year Missouri fired away at the Illini and took home an opening-weekend victory. The No. 20-ranked Illinois soccer team fell 3-1 to Missouri in their home and season debut.

Missouri is unranked and opened the season slotted to finish eighth in the Big 12 by the conference’s coaches.

“Missouri came out and showed some athleticism and I think exposed some things that we need to solve,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Defensively, they stretched us tonight and us being stretched we know doesn’t play to our strengths in terms of being able to defend as a team.”

Early signs looked good for the Illini as leading scorer Ella Masar picked up right where she left in 2006, despite playing with a bone bruise in her left foot. Masar brought the ball up and forced offensive pressure. After junior midfielder Marti Desjarlais sent a pass into the box, Masar found the ball again and rolled it to the far post for the team’s first goal of the game and season.

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But Illinois sat back and wasn’t able to create much of an attack for the rest of the game. While Missouri struggled to bring offense early, it exploited the Illini for three goals in the second half, two by Michelle Collins. The three goals came in a span of less than eight minutes.

“It looked like our legs got swept from under us,” Masar said.

Illinois seemed to still be in control early in the second half despite Mizzou’s offensive pressure. The Illini even caught a break when a Missouri player missed a penalty kick high.

“When they missed that PK that should have been what we call ‘a big-five moment’ – turn around and game changing,” Masar said. “It looked like we just fell apart and you can’t have a lapse like that in 90-minute soccer.

“They were a 90-minute team and we didn’t play for 90 minutes.”

Illinois caught some bad breaks on bounces that resulted in two of Missouri’s goals. The Tiger’s first goal was scored after a shot from fifteen yards inside of midfield hit the crossbar and came back right to Missouri’s Kristin Andrighetto, who easily controlled the ricochet and kicked it passed a defenseless Lindsey Carstens.

Missouri’s third goal came after Carstens saved a Ashley Bonnick shot. The rebound went right to Collins who tapped it in for the goal.

“We’ve got to get the numbers out of our box,” Rayfield said. “Lindsey did a great job. She was great in one-v-one. She stopped a lot of point-blank range shots. But anytime you’re deep in your box like that and giving up those kinds of shots because they’ve got numbers and you don’t you’re putting your goalkeeper in a tough situation.”

After posting back-to-back shutouts in preseason, the defense allowed the Missouri attackers to get behind them, leading to the lofty score. Junior defender Emily Zurrer said the group isn’t rattled by the defeat.

“We’re confident,” Zurrer said. “Tonight was not really a good night, especially for our first game of the season, it was really disappointing. But we’re still as confident as ever and Sunday we’re going to prove it.”

On Sunday the Illini will face Xavier in hopes of rebounding from Friday’s defeat. Rayfield said she isn’t worried and expects the team to bounce back.

“I’m not concerned. I know this team is a talented team and I think any time early when you play different opponents you expose different things,” Rayfield said.

“Everything they exposed are problems we can solve.”