More from Sunday's game
Congratulations to the Illinois Soccer team for winning the inaugural Illini Challenge Cup on Sunday. It wasn't the prettiest soccer game I've ever seen, but the Illini got the job done, defeating Dayton 1-0 in overtime. As noted on Sunday, Emily Zurrer got the game winning goal in her first game of the season.
Head coach Janet Rayfield had promised Zurrer that she would get into the game on Sunday, after Zurrer sat out Friday night's win against Iowa State. I don't think Zurrer was planning on playing 72 minutes, but she looked fresh throughout. She played both center and left back on Sunday, and Rayfield indicated that she could play both positions throughout the season, depending on matchups. Zurrer played left back for the Canadian National Team at the Olympics in Beijing last month.
Of course, the key point in the match was when Dayton defender Kathleen Beljan received a red card in the 56th minute when she tackled Illinois sophomore forward Jordan Hilbrands from behind, just outside the 18 yard box. As you'd expect, Dayton coach Mike Tucker and his staff weren't at all happy with the call. But it didn't take long for Tucker to reorganize his squad into an unusual 4-4-1 allignment.
With just one forward for Dayton, the Illini back line struggled to adjust and didn't take full advantage of their superior numbers. As a result, Rayfield sent four midfielders on the field for the overtime, which ultimately resulted in the game winner for Zurrer. After the game, Rayfield commented that you don't often practice against a 4-4-1 lineup, and that it was a great learning experience for her team on the fly.
Congratulations to the four Illini who earned all-tournament honors for the weekend: sophomore defender Danielle Kot (who assisted on Zurrer's game winner), junior forward Chichi Nweke (who had a goal and an assist on Friday), junior goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka, and senior midfielder Marti Desjarlais.
For the second straight week, an Illini has made the Soccer America team of the week. This time, it's Emily Zurrer getting the nod after her game winner on Sunday. Jamie Alvis received the honor last week. Soccer America also liked what they saw from the entire Illinois team last week, as the Illini climbed four spots to #13 in this week's top 25 poll. The Illini jumped up two spots in this week's Top Drawer Soccer poll, from #20 to #18. The NSCAA and Soccer Times polls (and maybe Soccer Buzz) will be updated later today.