BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If Illinois’ soccer team is playing in the Big Ten tournament and the match comes down to a penalty-kick shootout, don’t count out the Illini.
Coach Janet Rayfield’s fifth-seeded squad, the defending tournament champion, defeated fourth-seeded Minnesota 3-2 on penalty kicks Wednesday after the teams played to a 2-2 tie in regulation and two overtimes during the first-round match.
“I am so proud of the heart that this team showed today,” Rayfield said. “This will be one of those games that makes program history. The ones that stories are told about for years to come.”
Illinois is 3-1 in penalty-kick shootouts in Big Ten tourney matches, and the Illini advanced past the first round for the 11th time out of 13 matches.
The Gophers led 2-0 early, and the Illini were down a player for nearly the entire match after Amy Feher received a red card.
“We made one tactical adjustment at half, and then I told them to see the headline that would be written when they came back from a two-goal deficit and down a player,” Rayfield said. “It was about believing and fighting, and this team showed what a team with those two things can do.”
Next up for Illinois: a semifinal match at 9 a.m. Friday against top-seeded Penn State, which defeated the Illini 4-0 on Sept. 23 in Champaign.