IU recorded just one shot on goal during its road game Sunday at Illinois.
The Hoosiers failed to direct any of their six shots in regulation toward Fighting Illini senior goalkeeper Michelle Denley’s net. It took until the second minute of extra time for IU to test Denley in goal.
But that one shot was enough.
Sophomore forward Mykayla Brown latched onto a loose ball in the Illinois penalty box and poked her shot past Denley to win the match 1-0 for IU. The victory marked IU’s first triumph in conference play since Oct. 31, 2014, and ended a spell of 688 days without a Big Ten win.
“It was a huge win for us,” IU Coach Amy Berbary said. “Every weekend in Big Ten play we are looking to pick up points. I thought we did a very good job of sticking together and fighting to be able to get this win.”
Sunday’s match against Illinois featured very few chances for each team, as IU and Illinois combined for six shots on goal. Both the Fighting Illini and the Hoosiers were seeking their first win in conference play after losing their opening Big Ten matches Thursday night.
Freshman goalkeeper Sarah L’Hommedieu started in goal for IU and made two saves late in the first half to keep the match scoreless. L’Hommedieu first denied Illinois sophomore forward Caroline Ratz before also saving a shot from sophomore midfielder Lauren Ciesla.
While Illinois did not generate many clear-cut scoring opportunities in the match, it remained active around L’Hommedieu’s goal by taking 10 corner kicks. Defending set pieces was an area of concern for IU heading into this past weekend’s matches, which Berbary said she felt the team dealt with well.
“I credit our back line and our goalkeeper today,” Berbary said. “We were very solid defensively.”
Illinois controlled the match for the majority of the second half and forced L’Hommedieu to make three more saves to preserve what would become her third shutout of the season. Her most impressive stop came in the 74th minute when she tipped aside a curling shot from Illinois senior defender Hope D’Addario.
Youth was again a key factor for Berbary against Illinois. Three freshmen — L’Hommedieu, defender Meghan Scott and midfielder Allison Jorden — played in at least 84 of the 92 minutes in the match. It was two of the younger players on IU’s roster that combined for the game’s defining moment.
A cross into the Illinois six-yard box by Scott was beaten away by Denley straight to Brown, who controlled the ball with her left foot before finishing with her right to give IU the win.
“Continuing to fight got us this win,” Brown said. “I was able to take the chance to score up top while our defense did a good job defending for us. It says a lot for our team to be able to win.”
IU’s overall record improves to 4-5-1 with the win, while its Big Ten mark now sits at 1-1. IU began Big Ten play with a 1-0 defeat Thursday at Northwestern. Berbary said she is proud of her team’s response only three days later.
“We were disappointed after the result on Friday, and we wanted to bounce back,” Berbary said. “We somehow got to overtime at 0-0. We needed to have one good look at goal, and we needed to bury it and walk out of there. I guess Mykayla took that literally.”
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