In 1997, I was the first MVP in Illinois women''s soccer history. A year later, I earned first team All-Big Ten honors, and I earned my second team MVP honor. Heading into the 2004-05 season, I still owned the school records for most assists in a season (10) and a career (19). I finished with 12 career goals.
Senior forward Tara Hurless was named an NSCAA/adidas second-team All-American for the second time in her career after leading the Illinois soccer team to a 16-6-2 record and berth in the Elite Eight.
After reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, the Illinois women''s soccer team was ranked 14th in the final NSCAA/adidas Top 25 poll.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – For the first time in a long time, Illinois wasn''t able to overcome the odds.
Playing a Santa Clara team that one week earlier stunned perennial champion North Carolina, the Illini lost their Elite Eight women''s soccer match 2-0 Saturday in front of 2,160 fans on a field wet from heavy overnight and early-morning rains.
CHAMPAIGN – She just scored the biggest goal in Illinois soccer history, but you''d have thought Sarah Brown was walking into a final exam instead of walking away from a historic occasion.
"She''s pretty laid-back," teammate Christine Sinak said. "She takes things in stride. She doesn''t stress out. She kind of rolls with it."
CHAMPAIGN – Illinois midfielder Paula Faherty couldn''t remember coach Janet Rayfield''s pregame speech word for word, but it went something like this.
"She just said that we''re no longer in the building stage," Faherty said. "We''re done with that. We''re showing everyone that we''re a powerhouse. Making it to the Elite Eight definitely says that."
CHAMPAIGN – As Illinois players celebrated their win, Nebraska coaches and players were fuming about a late Illini penalty kick that became the game-winning goal.
With 4:46 left, a Cornhuskers defender was called for a foul in the box against Illinois'' Jessica Bayne, and the Illini were awarded a penalty kick. Sarah Brown buried it to give Illinois a 2-1 lead.
CHAMPAIGN -– Leisha Alcia said the Illinois soccer seniors have talked all year about their class'' legacy.
"We wanted our legacy to be the first to make it to the Sweet 16 and set that standard," Alcia said. "Our class really focused on having a successful postseason. But we''re not content on where we are now."
CHAMPAIGN – Coming out of Triad High School in southern Illinois, Jessica Bayne was looking to play her soccer far away from Illinois. She visited Florida State, Miami, Connecticut and Tennessee before making a final trip to Champaign.
There, Bayne met Tara Hurless, a sophomore at the time who talked about the program, the team chemistry, the coaching staff. Hurless'' recruiting pitch had a huge impact on Bayne.
CHAMPAIGN – It was part shock, part disappointment. As she walked off her home field after a 2-0 first-round NCAA tournament loss to Western Michigan last fall, Andrea Ridgeway felt a range of emotions.
She was stunned that her team, the best in Illinois soccer history, ended its season a week after winning the Big Ten tournament.