Illini Down Missouri 4-1 In Season Opener

<b>CHAMPAIGN, IL – </b> Senior midfielder Alaree Gunville tallied her first career goal as the Illini defeated Missouri 4-1 at Illinois Soccer Stadium. 749 fans came out to watch the Illini open the regular season against the Tigers, who entered today's game fresh off an overtime win at Northwestern Friday night.

"For the first game, I think you've got to be pleased to put up four goals against a good, solid team from the Big 12," said Head Coach Janet Rayfield. "I'm really pleased with the opportunities we created."

The Illini opened the match in control, setting up several opportunities for a score against the Missouri defense. Illinois' first goal of the season came courtesy of midfielder Laura Redmond in the 17th minute of the second half off an assist from sophomore Eva Strickland. The score was only the second career goal for the junior from Richmond, Va., while Strickland recorded her sixth career assist.

Through the first half, Missouri began to come alive against the Illini defense, but goalkeeper Leisha Alcia kept the Tigers from scoring with six saves during the first period. As the first half began to wind down, the Illini kept their offensive attack in motion, recording two goals in the last five minutes before the break. Gunville's first goal came in the 43rd minute off a cross service from Christen Karniski, followed by an unassisted Andrea Ridgeway score two minutes later to give the Illini a 3-0 cushion at halftime.

The second period featured more physical play by both teams. The Tigers found their rhythm in the 61st minute and recorded their third goal of the season from Jennifer Nobis off an assist by Ashley Gibbs. Illinois would answer back in the 68th minute when Chris Sinak took control of a corner kick by Hurless with a header to beat the Missouri goalkeeper.

"I was making the far post run, and Hurless can serve the far post on a dime," said Sinak. "We worked it in practice, and today it just hit me right there on target."

The Illini were pleased with the play off the bench by freshmen Ella Masar and Kara Gostisha who recorded their first collegiate minutes, but defensively, there is still room for improvement.

"I think we stayed pretty organized defensively," Rayfield said. "I would have liked for it to have been a shut-out. I think that's something we should've been able to do." Sinak reiterated. "I'm disappointed that they still squeezed out a goal, so we still have something to work on. It wasn't perfect today, but it was a great start."

The Illini out-shot Missouri 25-14, with 12 shots on goal and three assists. Alicia got her 33rd career win and recorded eight saves.

Up next: The Illini hit the road next weekend for two non-conference matchups. The Orange and Blue face SE Missouri State on Friday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Evansville, Ind. to face the Purple Aces Sunday, Aug. 5 at 1 p.m.
Story courtesy the University of Illinois.

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