Illini pack confidence for long tourney trip

By: Joe Coughlin

By: Joe Coughlin

By: Joe Coughlin

By: Joe Coughlin

CHAMPAIGN – Illinois soccer coach Janet Rayfield was all smiles and Illini forward Tara Hurless was all confused after the NCAA tournament pairings were announced Monday.

The Illini travel to College Station, Texas, a site hosted by ninth-seeded Texas A&M, where they play Rice on Fri-day.

"I was happy to see we were on the board," said Rayfield, who is originally from Dallas. "There will be a strong Rayfield contingency there."

Hurless looked at the screen and didn''t understand what she saw.

"I was actually really surprised we were going to Texas. I thought we might host," she said. "I thought (the screen) said Rico. I don''t even know who Rice is."

Rayfield, though she knew who the Owls were, said she didn''t have much information about the Illini''s first-round opponent.

"Rice is a good team for sure," she said. "We don''t know a lot about them. We don''t have any tape (of Rice). There has to be some tape out there, and we''ll get it and see what we can do between now and Friday."

There are 16 host sites for the tournament, each featuring a seeded team. Each site hosts two matches Friday, with the winners playing Sunday. Texas State is the fourth team in Illinois'' pairing.

Though some players hoped to be seeded and possibly host the first two rounds, Rayfield said she knew the Illini would not be seeded.

"It is based on results," she said. "Do I think we''re one of the top 16 teams in the nation? Not based on results, but do I think we are? Yes, I do."

The Illini were ranked 18th by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America last week. Since then, UI beat Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament but lost to Penn State, which earned the No. 2 ranking for the tournament.

"We scored seven goals in two games (5-0 win against the Wildcats, 3-2 loss to Penn State)," Rayfield said. "Our offense is doing well. We are healthy and putting things and pieces together."

The Illini go into the tournament confident.

"We are going to focus on ourselves and the first game," goalkeeper Leisha Alcia said. "What it comes down to is any team can beat anybody on any day."

Illini recognized

Several Illini received recognition from the Big Ten on Monday.

Hurless and defender Kelly Campbell were named to the All-Big Ten first team and Christen Karniski nabbed second-team honors. It is the second time Hurless was selected to the first team. Campbell and Karniski are first-time honorees.

"It is a great accomplishment to be one of the best three defenders in the Big Ten," said Campbell, who has started every match for the past two seasons. "It is almost too great to describe in words."

Hurless also was named to the Big Ten all-tournament team. She scored two goals and had two assists in the Illini''s two tournament matches.

Karniski and sister Natasha - were named to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District first team and will have their names on the bal-lots for Academic All-Americans.

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

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