Defending champs fall at first hurdle

[ILLINOIS-NOTRE DAME] Big Ten champion Illinois defeated defending national champion Notre Dame, 1-0, in a game that featured sustained winds of up to 45 mph Sunday afternoon at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium. The loss was the Fighting Irish's first in the first round since 1993.

Junior midfielder Niki Read scored the lone goal less than five minutes into the second half with a shot just under the crossbar, but still out of the reach of Irish goalkeeper Maddie Fox.

“We had several chances where I thought we could have put the game away, but that is the kind of day it was,” Illinois coach Janet Rayfield said. “Notre Dame is a great team, the defending national champions, and they are not going to give up goals easily. We certainly created our chances. The goal in a game like this is to finish more chances than they do and we were able to do that today.”

The Fighting Illini also posted an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal, including 6-0 during the second half. The key to the Illini defense was shutting down star Melissa Henderson, who finished without a shot.

"Reflecting back, I'm certainly proud of this senior class," Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. "I'm disappointed for them and that we didn't get a chance to continue playing but looking back at it what a great career they had. I'm disappointed to see this group leave. I think we lost to a very good Illinois team today that was prepared to play and I didn't think we were very good offensively the whole day. You can't not create chances in this kind of a game and expect to advance so we'll get back and we'll get to work for next season."

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