Soccer rebounds from UCLA defeat to best Cal State

By Steve Contorno

The Illinois soccer team rebounded from a 4-2 loss at the hands of No. 7 UCLA on Friday by defeating Cal State Northridge 4-0 Sunday.

The Illini (2-2-0) scored three goals in the first half to put Cal State (0-3-1) away early.

“It was a completely different game than Friday,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Friday was an end-to-end duel. Today was doing the little things in the box to get behind them in order to score. We had to solve them a little differently.”

Senior defender Mary Therese McDonnell was absent from the lineup after sustaining a head injury Friday. The team was also battling a stomach bug, said Rayfield, who called Sunday’s game a “gut check.”

“We played to the strength of our goal scorers today … and we defended with heart,” Rayfield added.

Senior defender Kara Gostisha said the team adjusted well to not having McDonnell.

“We have great depth,” Gostisha said. “(McDonnell) is a great player but we have people that can come off the bench and play. We have such great team chemistry that anyone can step in.”

Gostisha opened up the scoring for the Illini, heading an Ella Masar free kick into the back of the net. It was Gostisha’s first goal as an Illini and it came two minutes into the 65th game of her career.

“I was served a great ball and (Jackie Santacaterina) and I both crashed the net and I was able to get a head on it and score the goal,” Gostisha said.

The Illini continued to pound away at the Matadors, scoring again 30 minutes into the half on a Laura Knutson goal, her second on the weekend. Sophomore midfielder Courtney Bell assisted the goal.

Bell would go on to assist another goal in the first half, scored by redshirt freshman forward Christina Sahly who also tallied the first goal of her career.

Masar added a goal to her assist, her third on the season. She has seven points already after finishing with 27 last year.

“My teammates are creating so much for me and allowed me to get the opportunities to score today and the last four games,” Masar said.

The Illini leave the West Coast .500 and, even with Friday’s tough loss, believe they can beat anyone in the country.

“We take out of this weekend that we showed we can play at the highest level of college soccer,” Rayfield said. “You have to have head, heart and gut to engage in these games psychologically and we proved we could do that.”

Masar agreed.

“We can compete with anybody,” she said. “We need to keep playing for 90 minutes and we’ll be in it.”