CHAMPAIGN - Just like the crazy fans with the baking pans and spatulas, Illinois women´s soccer coach Tricia Taliaferro wanted her club to make a lot of noise Friday night in the Orange and Blue Classic at Illinois Field.
But while the two young men with the cooking untensils made quite a commotion, the Illini´s offensive attack was silenced by a stifling Syracuse defense. Illinois managed four shots on goal as Syracuse won the match 2-1.
"I think we started out a little slow, and Syracuse came out ready to go," Taliaferro said. "We made some adjustments at halftime, and I like the way we responded. But when you´re playing a good team like Syracuse, you can´t get away with playing 45 minutes. You have to play a whole 90 minutes, and we didn´t do that tonight."
Senior midfielder Colleen Joyce put Illinois on the board with 19 minutes left in the first half, heading in a ball served up by junior defender Rebecca Johnson. Syracuse struck right back, scoring two goals in three minutes, while Illinois struggled to earn offensive chances.
"We had opportunites," Joyce said. "We just couldn´t put it in the back of the net. They finished. We didn´t. I think that was the difference."
Taliaferro called on Leisha Alcia to start in goal, and the freshman responded, finishing with six saves in her first collegiate start.
"She´s been doing well in practice, and she´s earned the spot," Taliaferro said. "I think we´re going to continue to go with her. She just needs to calm down a little. You can´t expect too much from a freshman starting her first game. I have to be patient with her."
An athletic keeper with quick reflexes, Alcia made two diving saves in the second half to keep her team in the game.
"This whole experience has been so overwhelming," Alcia said. "I didn´t have any idea what to expect when I first got here. I´ve never experienced such intense training."
Illinois received a scare when Emily Ward collided with Syracuse defender Megan Huez early in the second half. The freshman midfielder remained on the ground for more than 10 minutes before paramedics placed her in an ambulance and took her to the hospital.
"She got knocked in the head, and she was unconscious, but I think she´s OK," Taliaferro said. "She knew everybody´s name."
In Friday´s other game, UCLA beat Louisville 7-0 as former Illini coach Jillian Ellis made a successful return to campus.