Illini get offensive in season-opening win against Tigers

Illini get offensive in season-opening win against Tigers

By: Mike Mears

By: Mike Mears

By: Mike Mears

By: Mike Mears

URBANA – The Illinois women''s soccer team posted a school-record 16-4-2 mark last year on the back of a dominating defense, as the Illini allowed a mere 12 goals on the season.

If the team''s season opener against Missouri on Sunday was any indication, the offense is ready to share the load in 2004.

The No. 14-ranked Illini took care of the Tigers 4-1 at Illinois Soccer Stadium, with one goal apiece from forward Andrea Ridgeway and midfielders Laura Redmond, Christine Sinak and Alaree Gunville.

Gunville, a senior, scored the first goal of her college career from 15 yards out on an assist from defender Christen Karniski.

"Basically, Christen did most of the work for me," Gunville said. "She took it down the sideline and drew all the defenders to her, which left me open at the top of the box."

Head coach Janet Rayfield said a balanced offense is one of the main goals for Illinois in 2004. Last season, forward Tara Hurless was the only Illini in double-digits in goals, scoring 13.

In addition to Gunville''s first career goal, Sinak''s and Redmond''s scores on Sunday also topped their goal total for the entire 2003 season.

"Back in January, we said we want to get three people in double-digit scoring," Rayfield said. "We were dynamic today and created a lot of chances."

Not to be outdone, All-American Leisha Alcia was solid in goal. The senior goalkeeper made eight saves, including a pair in of highlight reel stops in the first half. She made a leaping save with 18 minutes left in the half, punching Missouri forward Jena Lind''s shot over the crossbar. Fifteen minutes later, Alcia made a sprawling save, stopping Lacy Moore''s attempt with a dive to her left.

"It was a good performance on both sides of the ball today," Rayfield said.

Unlike last year, though, such a performance is expected of Illinois. Their 16-win season and Big Ten Tournament championship took the soccer world by surprise in 2003, as Rayfield''s 2002 squad was just 9-11-1.

There won''t be any surprises this year, as the Illini enter the season with a top-15 ranking. Performances such as Sunday''s are expected to become the norm.

"The difference is the expectations are now external as well as internal," Rayfield said. "Now, no team will take us for granted and there''s a target on our chest. But we need to embrace that, because it was our performance (in 2003) that earned us that target.

"That''s what it means to be a Top-20 team."

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Sports, Soccer
Categories (3):Illini Sports, Soccer, Sports