Illini soccer falls to UNC in NCAA 2nd round

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (UI Release) - In a second round tournament game that featured former player vs coach, it was Anson Dorrance's Tarheels that emerged victorious over Janet Rayfield's Illini by a score of 9-2. Illinois got on the board first, but the Tarheels responded with seven second half goals. The Illini conclude their season with an overall record of 10-9-4. 

"There's no doubt that tonight the wheels fell off the wagon. I am the one who is tasked with making sure the wagon is ready so I take responsibility," said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield. "We scored early and soon after we started playing not to lose and there was way too much time for that. We have some young players who learned some great lessons tonight. We will move on and look to be back in this spot better prepared next year. There was great moments from this season that we will remember forever-tonight just won't be one of them." 

In the first half, the Illini stunned the Chapel Hill crowd by striking fast and early. Just 89 seconds into the game, Illinois stripped the Tarheels from the ball in UNC's defensive third. DiBernardo then dished to Breece who was sprinting down the left flank. After a couple of dribbles got her into the box, Breece blasted a low lining shot into the right corner from 15 yards out.  The goal was Breece's fourth on the year.

However, the tide turned quickly against the Orange and Blue when North Carolina earned the equalizer five minutes later off of their lone corner kick of the period. Summer Green received the corner at the top of the Illinois box, where she released a shot on goal. Panozzo made the diving save but the ball deflected a few yards in front of her where Kelly McFarlane was waiting.

Steph Panozzo then contributed to the highlight reel in the 14th-minute when she made a gravity defying save to her left off of a rocket from Crystal Dunn to keep the score all-squared. 

Yet, Crystal Dunn and the Tarheels found the go-ahead goal in the 37th-minute. UNC's Alyssa Rich dished a through ball down the middle-left side of the field. Dunn outran an Illinois defender and beat Panozzo to the ball in which she poked it to the near post for the 2-1 lead heading into half-time. 

The second period doomed the Illini's season as four goals were scored in the opening 15 minutes. 

Niki Read made sure to get on the scoreboard in her final game. The senior received the ball inside the North Carolina box off of a flip throw-in from Megan Pawloski in the 63rd-minute. Read struck the ball into the far post for her fourth goal on the season and 14th in her fine career. 

UNC added three more goals in the closing 15 minutes to reach the final score of 9-2. The Tarheels outshot the Illini 26-5 and kept their streak alive of advancing to the round of 16 for every year in the tournament's existence. 

Also to note, leading scorer Vanessa DiBernardo got subbed out in the 29th-minute after being injured and did not return to the game. 

Illinois senior goalkeeper Steph Panozzo finished with seven saves on the night, putting her at 111 for the year, which ties Leisha Alcia for the most saves in a single season.

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