Illini soccer falls at UCLA

U of I Sports Information:

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The No. 22 ranked University of Illinois soccer team (2-1-1) suffered their first defeat of the season, dropping a 2-0 game to No. 5 UCLA (3-0-0) Sunday afternoon. The Bruins tallied two second half goals in the 48th and 61st minute.

"Today we had two shots cleared off the line, a goal called back and lost the game to a great UCLA team based solely on a lack of concentration by our back line is extremely disappointing," said interim head coach Jeff Freeman.

The Illini stood strong in the first half as they kept the Bruins off of the scoreboard. In the opening minutes of the contest, junior defender Kassidy Brown made a last second clearance stopping the ball right before it crossed the goal line after Panozzo was beat one-on-one.

The Orange and Blue's first shot on goal came from Taylore Peterson. The freshman blasted the ball off of a corner kick, but it was straight at UCLA goalie Katelyn Rowland. 

Illini keeper Steph Panozzo produced a gravity-defying save at the 33rd minute, jumping up and punching the ball over the crossbar to keep the Bruins at bay. Illinois nearly recorded the first goal of the match in the 37th minute when Nicole Breece put the ball in the back of the net but was called offside. 

The Illini received another goal-scoring opportunity in the closing minute of the half when Brown struck a free kick to the top of the UCLA box. The ball bounced around the penalty arc and the Bruins cleared before the Orange and Blue could get a foot on it for the shot.

The Bruins charged straight out of the gate in the second period, scoring their first goal in the 48th minute. UCLA's Abby Dahlkemper connected with Zakiya Bywaters on a long pass. With just the goalie to beat, Bywaters finished and gave UCLA the lead.

Illinois senior Niki Read manufactured some scoring chances around the 57 minute mark. Read's left footed blast sailed just over the crossbar, then minutes later off of a Breece flip throw-in, Read's shot was deflected by a defender at the last second for an ensuing corner kick.

After clearing the corner, the Bruins added to their lead in the 61st minute. UCLA's Chelsea Cline sent a through ball behind the Illini defense where Ally Courtnall gave chase. Courtnall scored on the breakaway and moved their lead to 2-0.

Illinois was inches away from scoring twice around the 75 minute mark. The Bruins defense cleared two balls rolling on the goal line, one nearly an own goal and the second a shot by Illini senior Shayla Mutz.

Illinois recorded eight shots with five on goal compared to UCLA's 15 shots with eight on goal. Panozzo notched five saves in the match. Furthermore, UCLA led Illinois in corner kick attempts 7-5. 

"We measured up well today and I am excited about the continued improvement we are making as a team," said Freeman. "We will continue to work and improve, as it is not going to get any easier for us moving forward."

The Illini return home next weekend for a contest against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Sept. 1. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium.

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