Soccer victorious over Iowa at home

By Steve Contorno

Coming into Saturday’s game against the Illinois soccer team, the Iowa defense had allowed only six goals on the season, a total of 11 games.

Illinois matched that total in a 6-0 slaughter to capture its second Big Ten victory on the weekend. With the victory, the Illini evened their record in the Big Ten to 2-2 and improved to 7-4-0 on the season.

“We’ve been playing great soccer, we’ve been getting a lot of chances and I felt a game like this was deserved,” head coach Janet Rayfield said.

“We talked about having a goal scorer’s mentality as a team,” she added. “We had to approach every opportunity like it was our chance, and do it with confidence and to be scary whether we finished or not. I think that paid off.”

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Freshman midfielder Cory Steigerwald opened the scoring fireworks for the Illini, scoring halfway through the first half on a diving header off of senior defender Mary Therese McDonnell’s service. Steigerwald’s classmate, forward Laura Knutson, continued the freshman scoring for the Illini, adding an unassisted goal after stealing the ball from a Hawkeye defender.

Steigerwald then scored her second goal of the game, and season, with a shot from 12 yards out following a centering pass from last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chichi Nweke.

“Everyone does the learning curve a little differently,” Rayfield said. “Laura didn’t try to do too much at first and just play on instinct and now she’s starting to think. Cory was the opposite. She plays in the middle, a little more of a thinker’s position. Now that she’s understanding the system she can relax and play … (Steigerwald’s ability) helps the depth of this team and helps us to be a dynamic attacking team.”

Steigerwald, who has played in just five games this season, entered the game when sophomore midfielder Jackie Santacaterina went down after a hard foul. Steigerwald said she was happy to provide a spark for her team.

“I just had all this energy in me. I was honestly just trying to send the ball back across but the wind was blowing in the right direction and it went in,” Steigerwald said of her first goal.

In the second half, Illinois totaled four goals, including one from senior Ella Masar, who lost sole possession of the team lead in goals to Laura Knutson for all of 22 minutes before scoring on a header in the box.

Sophomore Courtney Bell scored the Illini’s fifth and sixth goals.

The defense helped the Illini clinch the victory with another shutout, its second on the season and sixth of the season. Goalkeeper Lindsey Carstens said the team turned itself around from the beginning of the season.

“Initially we kind of had a breakdown, and I think we’ve really worked hard to prevent that,” Carstens said. “We get pressure on the ball, we get numbers around the ball and it really helps us out.”

With only seeing two shots on goal and the offense putting on a scoring clinic on the opposite side of the field, Carstens was able to just sit back and enjoy the view.

“I do (get bored),” Carstens said laughing. “But I love getting bored. It’s a good thing. It means the team’s playing well and they’re keeping the ball away the net.”

After starting the Big Ten season with back-to-back losses, the Illini are now .500 in the conference.

Illinois will continue its Big Ten homestand next Friday against Northwestern.