No. 16 Illinois slips by Notre Dame
Read tallies second-half goal to power Ilini to victory
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- No. 16 Illinois (17-4-2) battled past defending national champion Notre Dame by a 1-0 score on Sunday afternoon at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium to reach the second round of the NCAA tournament. Junior midfielder Niki Read scored the lone goal of the contest, while the sustained winds of up to 45 mph dictated the pace and possession throughout the game.
"We had several chances where I thought we could have put the game away, but that is the kind of day it was," Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said. "Notre Dame is a great team, the defending national champions, and they are not going to give up goals easily. We certainly created our chances. The goal in a game like this is to finish more chances than they do and we were able to do that today."
Throughout the a scoreless first half, during which the Fighting Irish played with the wind at their backs, Illini goalkeeper Steph Panozzo secured three saves in net to keep Notre Dame out of the scoring column. The Irish broke through for their first shot on goal in the 22nd minute, with Panozzo punching a well-placed ball by Mandy Laddish over the top-right corner of the netting. Following the Notre Dame corner kick, Rebecca Twining tallied the second attempt on-net, with Panozzo in place to keep the ball out of the back of the goal. The Irish's last on-target shot came in the 43rd minute, when Adriana Leon sized up a strike from distance that Panozzo was able to snag for her third and final save.
"It was an awesome defensive effort," senior defender Jenna Carosio said. "Steph [Panozzo] made a couple of awesome saves in the first half and we fought through having the wind in our faces over the first 45 minutes. Stephanie Pouse shut down their crafty outside player and Christina [Farrell] and Kassidy [Brown] did an awesome job as well. Today was a good team effort. It felt good to earn the shut out, especially against Notre Dame, because they have a reputation of being so crafty."
After stifling the Notre Dame attack during the first half, eventually keeping first team All-Big East honoree Melissa Henderson without a shot over the entire contest, the Illini offense connected for the only goal of the game less than five minutes into the second half. Read settled a ball by junior forward Shayla Mutz and maintained possession 30 yards up-field, dribbling toward goal before firing a shot on-frame. Read struck the ball with pace and accuracy, putting the attempt just under the crossbar, but still out of the reach of Irish goalkeeper Maddie Fox to put Illinois in front 1-0.
The defense clamped down over the remainder of the contest, holding Notre Dame to only two off-target attempts, to send the Illini into the second round while securing the most wins in a single season in program history, with their 17th victory on the year. Over the entire game Illinois outshot the Fighting Irish 14-9, and earned three corner kicks against two for Notre Dame. Fox stopped seven shots in net while Panozzo totaled three saves to secure the ninth shutout of the season. Notre Dame was called for 12 fouls as a result of its physical play throughout the entire contest, while Illinois was only penalized three times.