CHAMPAIGN – After a season of firsts, the Illinois women's soccer team will get its first competition of the 2000 season today.
The Illini host Marquette in a 7 p.m. exhibition game at Illini Field.
"Hopefully, we'll show off the hard work we've put in in the preseason," senior midfielder Julie Schueller said. "We've been able to bring in some really good players this year. They've been able to fit in."
Illini new and old get a chance at Marquette, which is ranked fourth in the Great Lakes region by "Soccer Buzz" magazine.
Illinois, which is ranked sixth, began its breakthrough 1999 season with a 3-1 win against Marquette. They won seven of their first eight games and climbed to No. 15 in the polls before struggling down the stretch.
Second-year head coach Tricia Taliaferro expects a good offensive showing from the Illini, led by third-team All-American Emily Brown, who set the team record with 18 goals last year.
"We definitely like to attack," Taliaferro said. "I like an aggressive style of play. We have a lot of speed. We have maybe one conservative bone in our body."
Brown is one of 10 returning starters for a team that was 12-8-2 and won its first Big Ten tournament game.
Fans also will get a first look at a talented class of freshman, led by forward Tiffani Walker. The speedster scored 30 career goals and was a state-caliber hurdler at Bellevue, Wash.
Jennifer Smith and Kelly Walker were all-state picks in Tennessee and Illinois, respectively. The additions, along with All-Big Ten performers such as forward Lisa Baldwin and defender Heidi Holtman, promise an entertaining experience.
"You're close to the field, and you get a feel for being close to the players," Taliaferro said. "You ask the fans to come out and see and make an opinion for themselves."