TAMPA, Fla..— Illinois State soccer is not done yet. The ISU women’s soccer team won a nail-biting match in sunny Florida 3-2, as Rachel Tejada proved yet again why she is a four-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and bolstered her resume to be an All-American nominee.
The Redbirds advance to the round of 32 with their win against South Florida where they will matchup against the Pepperdine Waves, as the Waves beat Southern California Saturday afternoon in a penalty kick shootout.
The offense was aggressive throughout the two halves, but the ISU defensive squad came up big for the Redbirds with two team saves at the goal line.
The first half saw goals from Dagny Olson and Tejada, as the duo netted goals in the 27th minute and 33rd minute, respectively.
Olson made the initial shot from 25 yards out into the upper lefthand corner of the net, giving the Redbirds a lead that the Bulls could not come back from. The goal marked Olson’s fourth on the year, and the sophomore boosted her point total on the night, assisting Tejada with goal number three.
Tejada scored back-to-back goals in the 32nd minute and 55th minute to account for her 19th and 20th goals on the season. Her first net of the night was a pass from Kelli Zickert that found the low right corner of the back of the goal. The senior standout’s second goal found the right corner of the net, giving ISU a 3-0 lead.
However, the Bulls would make it interesting, as Leticia Skeete quickly scored South Florida’s first goal, one minute after Tejada’s score. Skeete found the net after a rebound from the left side of the box. In the 69th minute USF’s Diana Saenz scored her first goal on the season with a strike from the right side of the penalty box.
“I told the team we were going to have to be organized and this game was going to be battle,” said head coach Drew Roff. “USF is a very talented team, but we executed well tonight.”
ISU’s defense then held strong for the final 20 minutes as Aryn Newsom showed why she has accumulated multiple goalkeeper awards with save after save. With 13 minutes to play a USF shot came in high and Newsom leaped as high as she could in the air, tipping the ball just enough for it to strike the crossbar and fall innocently away from the net.
“There were a lot more shots at me today than there have been in past games,” said Newsom. “You have to credit our defense. Our back line came up big tonight.”
The defense jammed inside the penalty box and cleared balls out repeatedly and the Redbird bench stormed the field when the final buzzer sounded. For the Redbirds, it is their second-consecutive trip to the round of 32. ISU will face Pepperdine Friday at 7 p.m. CST. If they win the match then they will play Sunday. Both games will be played at UCLA.