Soccer

Soccer

Illini excited about Mexican challenge

CHAMPAIGN – The Olympic women''s soccer qualifier was supposed to be a slam dunk. The U.S. and Canadian teams were favored heavily to advance.

But only half of them made it. The Americans won March''s CONCACAF title in Costa Rica. But Canada was upset 2-1 in the semifinal by Mexico. The Canadians aren''t going to Athens.

Urbana star Masar already celebrating her return

URBANA – As much as Ur-bana''s Ella Masar has accomplished on the soccer field, there''s one thing she hasn''t been able to do: stay healthy.

For opponents, that''s the really scary part. The Illinois recruit scored an area-record 40 goals last season and is eight shy of breaking Katie Stephens'' school record of 86. But her career has been plagued by a painful condition in her legs, an ailment that extends back to her sophomore year.

Rayfield imports seven

Two Canadians highlight the Illinois women''s soccer class of 2004, a seven-player group that includes Urbana forward Ella Masar.

"The combined talents of this recruiting class include speed, height, international experience, composure and a raw determination that will enable them to have an impact immediately," Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said. "These seven young women will come in and challenge our current squad. The exciting part is that our current squad is prepared and excited for the challenge."

Kolze adds award

The awards continue to pile up for Illinois'' women''s soccer players.

On Thursday, senior defender Meghan Kolze was voted onto the NSCAA/adidas Scholar All-America first team.

Illini finish 21st

The Illinois women''s soccer team was ranked 21st in the final Soccer Buzz Magazine Top 25 poll.

Illini soccer players honored

Goalie Leisha Alcia became the first Illinois soccer player to reach All-America status Friday, when she was named to the NSCAA/adidas first team. Forward Tara Hurless was a second-team pick.

"Being an All-American is a dream for every college student-athlete, and it is such a great honor for Leisha and Tara," UI coach Janet Rayfield said. "It''s also an honor for this team and for the program."

Illini drop to No. 18

A first-round loss in the NCAA tournament dropped the Illinois women''s soccer team nine spots in the final NSCAA/adidas national Top 25.

Illini end their best season with first-round NCAA loss

CHAMPAIGN – All season long, different heroes emerged for the Illinois women''s soccer team. Someone was always in the right place at the right time to save the day.

So down 1-0 at the half with their leading scorer on the bench injured Friday night, the ninth-ranked, 16th-seeded Illini never imagined they would lose to Western Michigan.

Kolze is Illini''s senior soccer staffer

CHAMPAIGN – In the middle of the Illinois soccer team''s media guide, there''s a section called "scrapbook." It''s a collection of photos mostly taken away from the field showing players bonding on the beach or posing in what you hope are Halloween costumes.

And Meghan Kolze is in every single picture.

Illini aren''t worried about potential third-round NCAA matchup

CHAMPAIGN – They knew they were in the field of 64, and they figured Champaign-Urbana would be a host site, so there wasn''t much drama for the Illinois soccer players who crammed into a conference room Monday afternoon at Ubben Basketball Complex to watch as the NCAA tournament pairings were announced on ESPNNews.

But it was still a special moment for coach Janet Rayfield, who will lead a team into the tournament for the first time. Illinois, which earned the 16th seed, will host Western Michigan at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a first-round game.