BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Illinois soccer team had plenty of chances to defend its Big Ten tournament championship on Sunday.
Facing No. 21 Ohio State, a team they had already beaten this season, the Illini kept pouring shot after shot at the Buckeyes keeper. Time after time, tournament defensive MVP Jillian McVicker was up to the challenge.
In the end, the Illini couldn’t overcome a two-goal deficit —again — falling 2-1 on Sunday.
“We gave everything we had today,” Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said. “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.”
Now, the Illini await their fate to see if they did enough to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The pairings will be announced today.
“We will take that forward into the future and see what Monday brings,” Rayfield said of the progress her team has shown over the last few weeks.
In Sunday’s championship, fifth-seeded Illinois was locked in a scoreless draw when Tiffany Cameron scored four minutes apart to put the Illini in a familiar spot — down two goals.
Illinois rallied from a two-goal deficit for a victory in the quarterfinals.
The Illini, which put seven shots on net just like the Buckeyes, turned up the pressure, getting chances from Allie Osoba and Shayla Mutz in the 79th minute, but McVicker made a pair of diving saves.
Osoba broke through for a goal three minutes later.
“I thought our possession was good at times,” Rayfield said, “but we didn’t have the urgency going to goal until the very end.”
Illinois (10-8-3) had one more chance in the 88th minute but couldn’t connect.
Mutz and Vanessa DiBernardo were selected to the all-tournament team for Illinois.