CHAMPAIGN – No one tore their shirts off or anything, but 23 Illini, 743 fans and three refs will put Friday night's finish up there with any soccer play of the year.
It started with a free kick off the foot of Illinois midfielder Kelly Buszkiewicz, who let one rip from a good 45 yards away nearly two hours into her team's double-overtime marathon with Minnesota.
"I aim for the same spot every time and just hope Emily (Brown) hits it with a body part," Buszkiewicz said. "But I couldn't see what happened after that. I lost it in the crowd."
Brown will be more than happy to fill her in on the details later.
"Kelly floated it in there, and I ended up going between two girls on the other team who were going up for it," Brown said. "I just got a little piece of the ball with my head and flicked it toward the goal."
The ball bounced off the back of Brown's noggin and past Minnesota goalie Julie Eibensteiner, giving the No. 21 Illini a 2-1 victory in their Big Ten opener and first game as a nationally ranked team.
"Now that we're ranked, we want to stay ranked the whole year," Brown said.
It could be a challenge if star forward Lisa Baldwin's out too long. Baldwin, who scored five goals in Illinois' first six games, spent Friday night limping around on the sidelines after suffering a dislocated left kneecap in practice Wednesday.
She's out of commission indefinitely and a no-go for Sunday, when the Illini (6-1, 1-0 Big Ten) host 12th-ranked Wisconsin (4-1-2, 0-1).
"That hurts," Illinois coach Tricia Taliaferro said. "But I was impressed with how the team handled it with her not in there."
With Baldwin out, it was up to sophomore midfielder Lindsay Johnson to supply an offensive spark. She did, scoring her first goal of the season 25 minutes into the second half thanks to a Tara Schuling assist.
That tied it at 1 and forced overtime at Illinois' field for the second time in six days. On Sunday, the Illini dropped a 3-2 OT thriller to Missouri, their first loss of 1999.
"They were saying, 'It's not going to happen again to us,' " Taliaferro said. "They didn't want to go home feeling the same way they did Sunday."
The Illini will shoot for back-to-back Big Ten wins for the first time in the program's three-year history on Sunday. The Badgers won't be in a good mood after losing 4-1 Friday to Iowa.
"It's hard to play two games Friday and Sunday," Taliaferro said. "With a win, it's a little easier to get ready for Sunday."