CHAMPAIGN – Fighting Illini soccer earned a dominant, 8-0, victory over the Northern Illinois Huskies on Sunday in its home opener. Seven Illini netted goals in the match, led by senior Katie Murray who posted two of Illinois’ goals. The Orange and Blue improve to 2-2-0 on the season, and will stay at home to host Oklahoma State and SIUE next weekend.
“I think one of the things we wanted to see today, was that when we found some success offensively, we would keep putting the pressure on,” head coach Janet Rayfield said of the team. “I give credit to Northern Illinois, they were really hard to break down. What I liked from our team is that we just kept going at it. We have to have that mentality for the rest of the season.”
Illinois went on the attack immediately following the opening whistle. Junior Kelly Maday and senior Lauren Ciesla fired shots for UI within the first two minutes of play. Maday stayed strong, as she tallied four shots in the first 11 minutes of the match. She started the scoring for UI in the 21st minute, sending a ball from Murray into the back of the net. Maday put two shots on goal on Sunday, and tallied her second goal of the season in the contest.
Murray netted the second goal of the match in the 29th minute, as freshman Ashley Cathro used a header to get the ball to the Illini senior. Murray finished from there to record her first goal of the game. Her second score came in the 69th minute. Murray posted two goals and two assists on Sunday, also putting four shots on goal.
Illini sophomore Madi Wolfbauer scored her first-career goal in the match, as did senior Caroline Ratz and freshman Peyton Willie. Sophomore Hope Breslin netted her first goal of the season, sending a penalty kick past the NIU keeper. Breslin added an assist to her tally in today’s match, and also put two shots on goal.
Willie was credited with three assists on Sunday, and also posted five shots. Her three assists are tied for the most in a game by an Illinois freshman. The last time a newcomer dished three assists in a game was October 5, 2003 when Eva Strickland racked up three dimes.
Illinois’ eight goals in today’s match mark the third-most in a game in school history. The number is also the most scored by the Illini in a single game since also scoring eight on Oct. 27, 2000 against Western Illinois. The Illini tallied eight assists in the match as well, marking the second-most for the squad in a single-game in school history.
The Orange and Blue outshot Northern Illinois, 35-2 in the match. The Huskies put one shot on goal, saved by Illini junior Jaelyn Cunningham. Illinois’ 35 shots in the contest are just one shy of Illinois’ single-game school record.
“We were really excited about moving senior day to the front of the season, so not only could we say, ‘thank you for the three years of hard work’, but also so we could say, ‘we’re on board, lead us to greatness’. I think this senior class appreciated that and we certainly appreciate their leadership,” Rayfield said. “This is now a time for us to build on the momentum that they’ve created. What a great day for them to have this kind of success and see their team put balls in to the back of the net.”
In its home opener, UI recognized its senior class prior to the match for senior celebration day. Seniors Murray, Ratz, Ciesla, Sarah Warren, Patricia George, and Morgan Maroney were honored in the ceremony.
“This team was excited to be at home,” Rayfield said of the program’s return from a three-game home stretch. “You could see that, from pregame meal in our own facility to getting out here on our own field. We’re looking forward to continuing to play at home and grow this fan base. This was an exciting game to watch, and we’re excited to showcase this team in front of our fans.”
The Illini will host a pair of home matches next weekend, welcoming Oklahoma State on Friday, August 31 at 7 p.m. The game will mark Back to School Night, featuring a pregame tailgate for Illinois students. The First 200 fans in attendance will receive a free Illini cowbell. Illinois will host SIUE on Sunday at 2 p.m. for Camper Reunion day. Stick around after the match as the Illini squad will sign autographs for the fans at the game.
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