BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - After 290 minutes of dramatic Big Ten Tournament action that would be fit for a movie, the Fighting Illini women's soccer team came up just shy in their quest in defending their tournament championship, falling to No. 21 Ohio State Buckeyes 2-1. The loss ends an impressive run in which Illinois rallied a man down trailing two goals to Minnesota and upset the third best team in the nation in Penn State 1-0. Ohio State scored two goals in a five minute span mid-way through the second half today. Allie Osoba scored the lone Illinois goal in the 82nd-minute which was assisted by Vanessa DiBernardo.
"We gave everything we had today," said head coach Janet Rayfield. "I thought our possession was good at times but we didn't have the urgency going to goal until the very end. I am so proud of the heart and spirit this team showed all throughout this tournament and that is not about X's and O's -- it's about what you've developed inside. We will take that forward into the future and see what Monday brings."
DiBernardo tried to get Illinois on the board early. Twice in the opening 20 minutes, a flip throw by Nicole Breece found DiBernardo near the penalty kick marker in the box. However, the junior's shots were right at Ohio State's goalkeeper Jillian McVicker.
The Orange and Blue produced one more near miss in the 29th-minute. Quick passes between Megan Pawloski and Allie Osoba around the top of Ohio State' box freed up space for DiBernardo. The Naperville native's hard and low shot to the left corner was saved by a diving McVicker.
The score at half remained scoreless as both squad's defensive units held strong and dictated the period. Ohio State led in shots 6-4 but the Illini produced four shots on goal compared to their two.
The second half continued the chess match between the two competitive and even teams. However, it was the Buckeyes that found the momentum swing first which became the difference maker in the game.
In the 65th-minute, Ohio State's Megan Fuller inbounded the ball off of a corner kick. Then Buckeyes leading scorer Tiffany Cameron collected the ball at the six yard box after headers by Lauren Granberg and Megan Scoliere. Cameron spun and placed the ball into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Tiffany Cameron struck again. This time, Cameron received the ball at the top of the 18 yard yard box with her back to the goal. Cameron spun and quickly released a well placed shot that traveled to the upper left corner of the net for the 2-0 advantage.
However, Illinois would not be deterred for they rallied before in this tournament t and provided some late game magic.
In the 79th-minute, the Illini came close twice when Allie Osoba and Shayla Mutz both hit low shots to the left corner, but the defensive mvp of the tournament, Jillian McVicker, was there with two diving saves to keep the lead.
Yet, in the 82nd-minute, junior Allie Osoba gave the Illini a fighting chance. DiBernardo dribbled to the right corner of the Buckeyes box. Nearing the end-line, the junior hit a high cross to the far post, where Osoba ran on and headed it in to cut the score to 2-1.
The Orange and Blue continued to press and nearly found the equalizer off of a corner kick in the 88th-minute. The ball found Osoba once more in the box but her hard shot was blocked by a wall of Buckeye defenders. Illinois would gather the rebound and release a couple more shots, but Ohio St. was there each team to negate the threat.
Thus, both the time and the Illini's rally magic expired and the Buckeyes received their third Big Ten Tournament Title. Shayla Mutz and Vanessa DiBernardo were named to the 2012 All Big Ten Tournament Team.
The Buckeyes outshot Illinois 19-11 though the shots on goal were even at seven apiece. Ohio State also enjoyed a 4-1 corner kick advantage. Steph Panozzo finished with five saves, including one in the second half in which she put her body on the line diving into the post to make the save.
Illinois falls to 10-8-3 overall and will await to see their NCAA Tournament fate decided on Monday. The selection show will air at 3:30 p.m. CT and stream live on NCAA.com. The first round of tournament will take place on Friday, Nov. 9.