Heady Illini trip Xavier in opener

CHAMPAIGN – With Illinois' first-ever NCAA Tournament win in hand, the women's soccer team's scorekeepers began kidding Laura Freeman about her new Illini hair.

The sophomore sported an orange and blue 'do against Xavier on Wednesday night at Illini Field. While checking in late in the game, she joked, "Hopefully, it washes out."

Illini must plug holes in soccer opener

CHAMPAIGN – Tara Schuling looks at vacant spots in the lineup and sees opportunity for others.

About to play their first NCAA tournament game tonight, Schuling and her Illinois women's soccer team aren't lamenting the loss of juniors Lindsay Johnson and Lisa Baldwin. Instead, they're showing the kind of confidence that carried the Illini to a school-best 13-7-0 record.

Illinois makes case for NCAAs by taking Penn State to the limit

CHAMPAIGN – They were 10 minutes from their biggest win ever, one goal from the defining moment for a young soccer program.

The Illinois women's soccer team played the best game in its four-year history and took a national powerhouse to the limit, but it was not enough.

Illini come of age

They might have been newcomers to the Big Ten tournament, but two Illini freshmen looked like veterans in the biggest game of the season.

Goalkeeper Sarah Anderson showed the form that won her the starting job late in the season.

Michigan can't be stopped

CHAMPAIGN – Kickoff was pushed back an hour, but that didn't stop Michigan from rolling once the match started.

After a delay because of Illinois' triple-overtime loss to Penn State, the Wolverines scored four first-half goals and beat a tired Wisconsin squad 4-2 in Friday night's second Big Ten semifinal at Illini field.

Illinois soccer offense clicking

CHAMPAIGN – Michigan State women's soccer coach Tom Saxton didn't really need any convincing, but what he saw Thursday left no doubts about Illinois.

The Illini were the highest-scoring team in the conference heading into the Big Ten Tournament, and that wasn't by luck, according to Saxton.

Welsh rescues Penn State

CHAMPAIGN – She didn't quite hobble onto the field like Kirk Gibson before his game-winning home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series.

But ailing Penn State forward Christie Welsh provided a finished just as dramatic in the opener of the Big Ten soccer tournament.

UI seniors Lantz, Schueller basking in soccer glow

CHAMPAIGN – Julie Schueller can remember the day another Wisconsin prep coach told her Illinois was starting a women's soccer team.

The Mequon, Wis., native had led her high school to the state championship as a junior and was looking for a chance to play college soccer in 1997.

Young players step into starring roles on league teams

Illinois' Emily Brown worries more about building a program than filling her own trophy case.

That's a good thing. Brown is the Illini's all-time scoring leader and has been one of the top players in the country the past two years, and the junior might never be named Big Ten Player of the Year.

After sojourn to Montana, Joyce happy to be home

   CHAMPAIGN  Illinois'' Colleen Joyce never was much of an outdoors type growing up in McHenry.

   She wasn''t much for hiking, and she got her kicks scoring goals instead of careening down mountains on a snowboard.