PULLMAN, Wash. — When Saturday’s NCAA tournament opener went to penalty kicks, Illinois was in its element.
Showing its postseason resolve once again, Janet Rayfield’s Illini upset No. 21 Washington State in penalty kicks (3-1) to advance to the second round for the third consecutive season.
“The tradition with Illinois and penalty kicks is something where we have been before,” Rayfield said. “That certainly helped us
A year ago, Illinois beat Missouri in penalty kicks in an NCAA opener.
In sloppy conditions Saturday, after no goals through 110 minutes and two overtimes, the Illini got clutch kicks from Aliina Weykamp, Taylore Peterson and Vanessa DiBernardo to end it.
“I don’t think we ever tried to play to get to penalty kicks,” Rayfield said.
It helped that DiBernardo, who has missed considerable time due to injuries, was close to full speed. The senior played 110 minutes and had five shots.
“Today was a huge step for Vanessa,” Rayfield said. “To go from not playing a lot to playing 110 minutes in those conditions says a lot about how she wants her season to keep on going.”
Freshman Claire Wheatley made a career-high 11 saves in regulation and two more during the shootout.
“Claire came up huge today,” Rayfield said. “It was tough to hold onto the ball. For a kid from Texas to come up here, play in this type of weather and do what she did today as a freshman, you have to give her kudos for that.”
The Illini will play either Seattle or Portland on the road Friday.