Illini know Penn State tendencies
CHAMPAIGN – Former Illinois soccer head coach Jillian Ellis, now head coach at UCLA, predicted her old team could pull some upsets in the NCAA tournament.
Now's the time for Illinois, which faces nemesis Penn State in today's second round. Like Ellis, Illini defender Sue Hodson was in the predicting mood after Wednesday's first-round win over Xavier.
Considering the cold, she could have used Joe Namath's fur coat. And she nearly guaranteed a win against the seventh-seeded Nittany Lions before coach Tricia Taliaferro scolded her.
"We all have it in our minds that we can beat them," Hodson said. "And we are going to play our best game. There's no doubt in my mind.
"Everyone's pumped up. I think now it's a matter of pride. It's a matter of showing the world this is Illinois soccer, and you're not going to mess with us."
Strong words considering the Illini (14-7) are 0-6 against their seventh-seeded Big Ten rival heading to State College, Pa.
But Illinois players and coaches gained a lot of confidence during their triple-overtime loss to the Nittany Lions (20-2-1) a week ago in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Taliaferro said the momentum from Wednesday's first NCAA appearance and win also should help.
"I thought we outplayed them," Taliaferro said of the Big Ten tournament loss. "We need to beat Penn State to move on. We've got to be more disciplined."
They also need to be more physical against a bigger, possibly stronger Penn State team. During the conference tournament, 5-foot-6 Illini midfielder Colleen Joyce joked about being matched up at times against 5-11 Kris Phillips.
There are no secrets between the two teams, so it could come down to willpower, junior Heidi Holtzman said.
"We have all the tools," she said. "We've got the mentality. We're working on the discipline. We're working on the intensity.
"There's no surprises. We know their key players. We know their style of play. We know how to beat them."
Illinois will get its third shot at Penn State this season on Sunday. Here''s a look at the series:
Sept. 28, 1997
Sept. 20, 1998
Nov. 6, 1998
Oct. 10, 1999
Oct. 6, 2000
Nov. 3, 2000
NOTES: *Big Ten Tournament; UI home games in CAPS