CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Today marked the seventh annual Illini Soccerfest and Illini fans were treated to great weather, free food, inflatables and an afternoon game of soccer. However, Penn State spoiled the festivities, handing the Illini a 4-0 loss. The game marks the first loss at home for the Orange and Blue this season.
The Nittany Lions silenced the crowd early when Tani Costa scored in the first minute of the contest. Vanessa DiBernardo's U20 U.S. teammate and Penn State standout Maya Hayes dribbled down the left flank and delivered a low cross. Costa, who was in the middle of the box 15 yards out, struck the ball to the lower right corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
"In defense, hesitation can be a difficult thing to deal with, and I think we hesitated a little bit in those first twenty minutes and Penn State punished us and made us pay for our hesitation," Coach Rayfield said about the early tallies.
Illinois tallied their first shots of the match in the following minutes when Nicole Breece's shot was blocked by a Penn State defender then Shayla Mutz's header was saved by Erin McNulty.
When DiBernardo's shot went high in the 16th-minute, Penn State would add to their lead on a play that originated from the ensuing goal kick. After working the ball up the right hand side, Penn State's Mallory Weber had the ball with just one defender to beat. A quick touch to the inside freed enough space for Weber to release a shot that found the back of the right side of the net.
One minute later, Maya Hayes extended the lead to 3-0. Corey Persson earned the assist when she sent a long ball from her own defensive third to Hayes up top. Maya, on the breakaway, touched it by the keeper and finished the play.
Nicole Denenberg tried getting Illinois on the board late in the first half when she recorded three shots in the following 12 minutes. DiBernardo rifled off the last shot of the half to bring the shot totals to eight vs Penn State's 12.
"Once we settled down and started to play with confidence, we did some good things and created some good looks at the goal. Against a talented team like Penn State, we need to be more accurate with those opportunities," said Rayfield.
The Illini started the second half with shots from Taylore Peterson and Megan Pawloski and earned their first corner kick of the match. Then the match became a flurry of shots, in which both sides achieved their fair share as both goalkeepers had to stay alert throughout. Illini keeper Steph Panozzo would finish with six saves compared to McNulty's four.
Penn State netted their fourth and final goal on a Kori Chapic shot in the 86th-minute. Raquel Rodriguez earned the assist off of a corner kick which found Chapic in the Illini box. Kori one-timed the shot for her first goal of the season.
Illinois finished with 19 shots and four on target compared to Penn State's 25 and 10 shots on goal. DiBernardo led the squad with four strikes followed by Denenberg and Read with three each. Finally, the Nittany Lions concluded the match with a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks.
Next up, the Orange and Blue will compete in their first road games in Big Ten play. First, the Illini clash with Indiana on Friday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. CT and then battle Purdue on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 12 p.m. CT.
"Everyone in the Big Ten is a credible opponent that will come to play especially on the road," said Rayfield. "We have to approach Big Ten games one at a time. We said the same thing last year when we were 0-2-1. We have to learn from this game and focus on the game coming up this Friday."