421 minutes later Illini soccer nets goal, win



By Meghan Montemurro

Four consecutive conference losses and more than 421 minutes later, the Illinois soccer team finally notched a goal in a decisive Sunday matchup against Ohio State.

Battling 19 mph winds and 32 mph gusts, forward Chichi Nweke netted her sixth goal of the season on a second-chance ball that bounced away from Buckeyes’ goalkeeper Katie Baumgardner about five minutes into the second half. Forward Laura Knutson added an insurance goal that rocketed 18 yards into the right corner to secure the 2-0 win.


photo DI multimedia


Illini beat Ohio State 2-0

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“In the second half we did a much better job of keeping the ball on the floor and finding feet and knocking the ball around,” Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said after Sunday’s win. “It made the wind a lot less of an effect in the second half, but it was a factor. Any time the ball got up in the air you weren’t sure where it was going to come down.”

Illinois (10-8-0, 4-5-0 Big Ten) snapped a losing streak that was its longest since 1997. The Orange and Blue were shutout in each of their four previous games – a first for the program.

“After that first goal … the bench went crazy because it’s been awhile and we definitely needed it, and you could tell that things were getting into a rhythm and then we scored another one and now the goals are just going to keep coming,” Knutson said.

Home cookin’ was working again Sunday afternoon after the Illini fell to 2008 Big Ten Champions Penn State, 2-0, on Friday night. Illinois is undefeated at home in 14 of its last 15 games and has 13 shutouts.

“Home has been good,” Rayfield said. “I think we like playing here; we like the surface, we like the field and we got a couple shots on frame that we didn’t on Friday night.”

The win against Ohio State (7-9-0, 4-5-0 Big Ten) was especially important due to the format of the Big Ten Tournament. Only the top eight teams receive a spot, and tournament host Iowa receives an automatic bid despite a 3-5-1 Big Ten record.

With seven remaining spots and a flux of teams on the cusp of qualifying for the Tournament, the Illini needed to bounce back and put themselves in a good position heading into Friday’s regular season finale at home against Purdue.

“We just want to take care of what we can take care of,” Rayfield said. “A (win) against Purdue puts us in the Big Ten Tournament.”

Rayfield talked to the team before the game about putting more shots on frame. Her pep talk paid off, as six of the team’s 12 shots were on frame against the Buckeyes.

The performance was a stark contrast to the two shots on goal and 15 shots the Illini attempted in the loss to the Nittany Lions. The Orange and Blue defense held steady through the first half of Friday’s game; however, Penn State scored a goal 11 minutes into the second half and added another in the final minute on a breakaway.

Penn State’s first goal was somewhat controversial. Illinois goalie Alexandra Kapicka managed to get her hand on the shot, but the ball went up and came down on the goal line. Defender Emily Zurrer attempted to clear the ball; however, the official ruled it a goal because the ball completely crossed the line.

“The girl was pretty wide open so I stepped to her,” Kapicka said of the first goal.

Cody Westerlund contributed to this report.