Soccer defeats Cornhuskers, secures second place in Big Ten

The Illinois soccer team has tied the longest winning streak in program history after tallying its seventh consecutive conference victory this weekend against the Big Ten’s newest addition.

Traveling home from their last away game Sunday, the Illini (13-4-1, 7-2-1 Big Ten) were celebrating their 3-1 road win over the Cornhuskers (7-9-1, 4-6-0). The win also secured second place for Illinois in the Big Ten standings.

Though Nebraska was the first team to get off a shot in the first half, Illinois quickly retaliated with a goal by senior Marissa Mykines in the 28th minute. The goal was Mykines’ seventh of the season, which she said boosted the team’s energy.

“I think it helped pick up our energy level, because we were playing a little bit slow and not really getting a hold of the ball,” Mykines said. “I think that was a good game-changing moment in that aspect that it really helped boost our confidence and changed the tone of the game at that point. It was good timing for that.”

Eleven minutes later, a foul was called five yards outside of the 18-yard box on the Cornhuskers, which set senior Jenna Carosio up to tally her second goal of the season on a free kick.

“We have a lot of 1-0 games where it was tight for a few weekends, so it was nice to go up by two goals,” Carosio said. “It was low and it went through the wall. It didn’t go where it was supposed to go but it worked.”

Illinois led Nebraska 2-0 at halftime despite leading in shots by just a 7-6 margin. Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo tallied three saves in the half.

Three minutes into the second half, Nebraska’s leading scorer, junior Morgan Marlborough, ended the Illini’s shutout streak by tallying her 20th goal of the season on a connection of seven passes. The Illini continued the shutout streak for 533 minutes, 36 seconds — only 77:32 shy of breaking the program record. Though Marlborough broke Illinois’ shutout streak, Illinois assistant coach Jeff Freeman said the team did a good job of containing her for the majority of the game.

“Morgan is a very good one-versus-one attacker, so we really focused a lot and talked a lot going into the game about making sure that we had cover when we got isolated with her in our defensive third because she can beat through three defenders by herself very easily,” Freeman said. “I thought we did we did a great job providing cover for each other and making sure we limited her chances on goal.”

In the 86th minute, sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo tallied the third and final goal for Illinois. DiBernardo’s 15 goals and 35 points in a single season ties her with Emily Brown for the second most goals and points in Illinois history. Brown’s totals came in 22 games during the 2000 season, compared to DiBernardo’s 18 games played so far this season.

The physical aspect of the game was a hard one for the Orange and Blue to adjust too. The Cornhuskers tallied 10 fouls and one yellow card to the Illini’s six. Mykines said the physicality of the game changed the way Illinois played.

“I think for the most part we try to neutralize it by playing quick and not letting that get to us,” Mykines said. “We knew it was coming because they are a very fast, athletic team so we just had to play quick to get out of it and make sure we avoided that contact if we could for the most part.”

Illinois will finish the regular season at home against Michigan (9-7-2, 4-5-1) on Saturday for senior night. With the importance of senior night, Freeman said the Illini want to continue playing up to their potential.

“I think it is just important that we play good Illinois soccer — keep possession of the ball and keep Michigan chasing and on their heels,” Freeman said. “Saturday’s game against Michigan is certainly important because it is for our seniors as well, being senior day.”