Illinois 2, Nebraska 1



CHAMPAIGN, Ill. After battling through the first and second rounds on the road, the Fighting Illini soccer team (16-5-2) felt the warm welcome of a record-breaking 1,046 fans at Illinois Soccer Stadium and responded with a 2-1 victory over Nebraska (14-9-0). With the win, the Illini stay perfect at home with an 8-0-1 record and take on "Elite Eight" status as they move on to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

After a halftime appearance at last nights Illinois mens basketball game encouraging fans to come out and cheer the team on, head coach Janet Rayfield was thrilled with the turnout in the stands.

"To play against a team that plays with as much heart and emotion as Nebraska our crowd was huge for us," said Rayfield. "The crowd was an important part in us being able to maintain our energy."

The Illini players also felt the intensity of the crowd on the field, as the Orange and Blue came out aggressive against the Cornhuskers, getting on the board first in the opening period. Junior midfielder Paula Faherty caught a rebound from a corner kick at the 20:06 mark and fired a shot past Nebraska goalkeeper Katie Wright from 15 yards out for her second goal of the season.

The Cornhuskers would respond in the 29th minute with the help of Wright. Utilizing her strength at firing accurate free kicks, Wright launched the ball from 70 yards out that found midfielder Brooke Bredenberg inside the box, who headed it past Illini goalkeeper Leisha Alcia to even the score.

Both teams battled back and forth for the duration of the first half, but the score would remain knotted at one. With five minutes remaining, it looked as though overtime was in the near future until the 85:16 mark when sophomore forward Jessica Bayne was fouled inside the box to set up a penalty kick. Sophomore defender Sarah Brown, who converted her first PK of the year against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament, would come up big for the Illini, firing a shot past Wright for the lead.

"I saw (Jessica) go down in the box and from where I was standing I couldnt really call it either way," said Brown. "We have been practicing penalty kicks all week and I knew I could do it, so I just had to do what I do all the time."

From there, the Illini kept great composure, keeping Nebraska out of scoring territory. For Alcia, the last four minutes seemed like an eternity as the team went into defensive mode to hold on for one of the biggest wins in Illini history at home.

"It was a great ending to a great game," Alcia said. "I cant describe the feeling after the whistle blew, because it probably was the longest four minutes of my life. Overall it was a great game."

The Orange and Blue are now 4-4 all-time in the NCAA tournament and move into the quarterfinals, where they face No. 16 seed Santa Clara, who posted a stunning 1-0 upset over top-seeded North Carolina in overtime.

The Illini out-shot Nebraska 17-7 and held a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks. Alcia finished the night with four saves, while Wright takes the loss with seven.

Up Next: The Illini await word on their quarterfinal meeting with the 16th-seeded Santa Clara Broncos, who defeated top seed North Carolina 1-0 in overtime earlier this evening.

-- Courtesy University of Illinois