CHAMPAIGN – Talk about coming through.
The Illinois soccer team couldn't have picked a better weekend (homecoming) or a better outcome (back-to-back shutouts of Purdue and Indiana) at a better time (there's one game left in the Big Ten season).
After topping the Boilermakers 3-0 on Friday night, the Illini blanked the Hoosiers 5-0 on Sunday afternoon at Illini Field as Emily Brown and Laura Freeman scored two goals each.
"I'm really thrilled with the way we're playing," head coach Tricia Taliaferro said. "We're getting hungry, and we're starting to finish some of these opportunities that we have created throughout the whole year."
With its third straight shutout and eighth this year, Illinois (10-5, 6-3 Big Ten) is tied for second place with Wisconsin and Michigan. The Illini held Indiana to four shots on goal.
"The defense has really maintained consistency," Taliaferro said. "Having Rebecca (Patrick) back there has been huge for us. The ability (the defenders) have to control the game definitely helps our confidence."
Fed by Colleen Joyce, Brown scored 6 minutes, 59 seconds in to start the UI on the right track. She scored her 11th goal of the season – and her school-best 42nd career – on a Lisa Baldwin assist to put Illinois up 2-0 at halftime.
Tiffani Walker scored next for Illinois on a pass from Abby Goodman.
"Tiffani has been going over some video and wanting to learn how she can get balls in the back of the net," Taliaferro said. "I'm really pleased that she was able to finish today."
Freeman scored unassisted two minutes after Walker's goal before converting a Kristen Holman corner kick in the waning minutes.
"We worked really well together today, and that was the key," Freeman said. "We have a deep bench, and I think that's what makes us the team we are. We push each other in practice."
Next up for Illinois: the Big Ten finale Friday at Iowa. A victory guarantees the Illini no worse than a tie for second and a good seeding in the league tournament.
"We can't control what everyone else is doing," Taliaferro said. "We want to take care of business. The last three games, we've done that."