LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Saturday's NCAA tournament first-round match at Louisville was the 343rd game in the history of the Illinois State soccer program. It was two players in just their 21st game, however, who helped ISU accomplish something no previous Redbird or Valley team had before.
Freshman Dagny Olson delivered the decisive penalty kick in a shootout, while classmate Hannah Leinert scored the Redbirds' (14-6-1) lone goal in regulation, as ISU advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament by moving past Louisville in penalty kicks 4-3 after battling with the Cardinals (12-5-2) to a 1-1 draw. The 2013 Redbirds are the first squad in Valley and team history to move into the second round.
The Cardinals opened the scoring in the 40th minute, when substitute Lexie Niedoba scored on a rebound less than 30 seconds after entering the match. After mustering just two shots through the first 45 minutes, the Redbird offense began clicking in the second half. Leinert evened the match with her league-leading 16th goal of the season, heading home a cross at the back post delivered by Anna Stinson from the near side.
"Everybody was pushing to get that second goal to tie it up and get the momentum back," Leinert said.
From there, the match opened up into the end-to-end soccer that was expected from two of the nation's top-10 scoring teams. Both squads generated multiple opportunities, but could not find a second goal in regulation. The Cardinals saw the majority of opportunities in the first overtime session, outshooting the Redbirds 3-0, before ISU rebounded with four chances in the second sudden-death overtime. Neither team could find the game winner, forcing the shootout.
Louisville drew first blood before Rachel Tejada converted the Redbirds' first attempt. Goalkeeper Aryn Newsom got a piece of the Cardinals' next opportunity, before Kyla Cross finished her chance to give the Redbirds a 2-1 edge. Newsom stopped another, this time diving to her right, before the Louisville keeper saved Anna Stinson's bid. The Cardinals converted their next two opportunities, but Allie Newsom and Olson finished the match with conversions.
"It had been awhile since I've been in a shootout," Aryn Newsom said. "I can't even explain the emotions that are going through your head. Through the years of playing the position, I've learned that you can't keep thinking about getting nervous, because then you will. You just have to stay in the moment and do what you have to do."
ISU's six upper classmen had been defeated 3-0 in the first round of the tournament in each of the past two seasons, first by Milwaukee in 2011 and then by Marquette in 2012.
"The last two years, it almost felt like we didn't really have a chance in these games," Stinson said. "Knowing we had the talent and the team to win this game is an unbelievable feeling. I'm still shaking. It's an awesome accomplishment."
Illinois State will play the winner of Saturday night's first-round game between No. 3 seed Michigan and Milwaukee next Friday. If the Wolverines win, the match will be in Ann Arbor, but if Milwaukee advances, ISU will take on the Panthers in South Bend, Ind.