A painful ending
When Illinois soccer coach Tricia Taliaferro talked about Friday''s first-round NCAA tournament match against Syracuse, she used the words "opportunities" and "chances" a lot.
Unfortunately, the word "missed" preceded both of them.
Taliaferro''s club took 27 shots but didn''t score as Illinois lost 1-0 at Illinois Field in Champaign.
"It was a tough game," Taliaferro said. "It''s one of those games that I thought we played well, and we had our opportunities. We just weren''t able to finish them."
After a scoreless first half, Syracuse''s Erica Mastrogiacomo scored five minutes into the second half. The Illini took 18 more shots than the Orangemen and had a 15-2 corner-kick advantage.
It was a game Illinois could have won and, according to Taliaferro, one it should have won.
"That''s what makes this game weird," Taliaferro said. "We had them on their heels a couple of times, and we should have been able to take advantage. We just missed a lot of opportunities tonight."
The Illini took three corner kicks in the final five minutes and had three shots in the last 20 seconds. Two of those shots were blocked, and the final one – a tough shot in traffic from freshman forward Tara Hurless – sailed over the goal as time expired.
"In a tight game like that, you always have at least one more opportunity," Taliaferro said. "That was our chance, and we missed it."
Syracuse coach April Kater was a nervous wreck during the final seconds.
"I think I could say that I got a few more gray hairs than she did," Kater said. "For the last 20 minutes, it was really all (Illinois), and we''re just trying to play the game out."
The Illini were whistled for 13 fouls and played their usual hard-nosed game.
Junior midfielder Tara Schuling injured her shoulder 30 seconds into the game but stayed on the field the entire 90 minutes. After the game, she was taken to a local hospital for tests on what team trainers said might be a dislocated shoulder.
"That''s a true player," Taliaferro said. "We needed her in the game, and she had to push through it. She''s super tough, and that''s a tribute to her. I''m amazed that she made it through the game and had the impact that she did."
Illinois finished 12-8-1. In the eight losses, the Illini scored five goals. Offense will be a priority during the recruiting season.
"If you look at the high-profile players around the world, they''re usually your big-time goal scorers," Taliaferro said. "They''re rare, and it''s one of those things where you just have to go out and find them."
Taliaferro will have to find someone to replace Colleen Joyce. The senior midfielder was the team''s leading scorer this season.
"I''m going to miss (playing) like crazy," Joyce said. "We had a good mix this year, and I know they''re going to do extremely well next year."
Syracuse will play Santa Clara at 2 p.m. Sunday in the subregional final. The Broncos beat Evansville 3-0 in Friday''s first game as Kristi Candau scored twice. Erin Sharpe made three saves.
At Notre Dame
Amanda Guertin scored twice as the host Irish beat Eastern Illinois 2-0 in an NCAA tournament opener. Lindsey Dechert made 10 saves for the Panthers.