LINCOLN, Nebraska – Fighting Illini soccer netted two first-half goals in Sunday’s regular season finale at Nebraska to earn a 2-1 victory over the Cornhuskers. Freshman Makena Silber and junior Kelly Maday capitalized for the Orange and Blue to give Illinois an early lead. With the victory, the Illini improve to 11-7-0 on the season and finish with a 6-5-0 record in Big Ten play.
Nebraska’s style is unique, and our strong start was critical, especially with the wind in our face,” head coach Janet Rayfield said. “Credit to our entire team defense for battling through the second half with Nebraska pushing all 11 players forward for most of the 45 minutes. I am excited for this team. They have focused one game at a time to put themselves into the post-season. Today they finished one job and now it’s time to focus on the next one.”
Illinois wasted no time on Sunday afternoon as Silber netted the first goal of the match in the third minute of play. Maday fired a long pass past the Husker defense, and Silber escaped through to beat the defender and send the ball past Nebraska’s keeper.
Despite a one-goal lead, Illinois did not let up on its attack. Silber and Maday combined for three more shots early in the first half, and Maday coverted another shot for Illinois in the 24th minute. Senior Morgan Maroney powered through a Nebraska defender, stealing the ball away and passing it outside to Maday, who carried the ball into the box and gave Illinois a 2-0 lead in the first half.
Both teams continued to battle throughout the first half of play, but the Illini outshot the Huskers 7-5 before the break and put four of their shots on goal. Junior goalkeeper Jaleyn Cunningham grabbed both of her saves before the halftime break to shut out the Huskers.
Both teams switched possessions to start the second half, the Illini were strong defensively, holding Nebraska without a shot for the first 18 minutes of the period. The Huskers looked to close the gap, however, scoring their lone goal of the match in the 64th minute.
Silber responded with two more shots for the Orange and Blue to close the match, and the Illini defense held the Huskers to just one more shot in the final frame.
The Orange and Blue outshot Nebraska 9-7 in the match, putting four shots on goal. Silber led Illinois with five of those shots, and Maday added three of her own.
With Sunday’s victory the Orange and Blue clinched a spot in the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. The full Big Ten Tournament bracket will be released following the completion of the regular season on Oct. 24. Big Ten Tournament play begins on Sunday, October 28. The semifinal and final rounds will be held Friday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 4.
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