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Oct. 20, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 17 Penn State women's soccer team registered its first shutout of the Big Ten season on Sunday, downing Illinois by a count of 5-0 in the final home game of the regular season. Sophomore Raquel Rodriguez (San Jose, Costa Rica) notched the first multi-goal performance of her career with two goals while Tani Costa (Honolulu, Hawaii), Mallory Weber (Novi, Mich.) and Maya Hayes (West Orange, N.J.) also found the back of the net.
"This is the best Senior Day that I have been a part of," said head coach Erica Walsh. "Every class of seniors is so special and this class has been program changing. The shutout feels really good; it has been a long time coming. I couldn't ask for anything more today, everything just came together."
With the win, Penn State moves to 12-3-1 overall and 6-2-0 in conference play while the loss drops Illinois to 8-6-2, 3-4-1. The Nittany Lions outshot the Fighting Illini 17-8, with 12 of their attempts coming on goal.
Rodriguez put Penn State on the board early, notching her first goal in the eighth minute. Senior Taylor Schram (Canonsburg, Pa.) sent a through ball to Rodriguez and the midfielder fired it in from just outside the box to put the Lions up 1-0.
It did not take long for Rodriguez to double the Nittany Lions' lead as she buried another ball in the net just six minutes later. She rebounded the ball after a shot by Schram was blocked by an Illini defender and was able to finish from the top of the 18 yard box.
Costa pushed PSU's lead to 3-0 in the 31st minute after notching her sixth goal of the season. The forward made use of her quick footwork to turn a defender around before sending the ball in from 12 yards out.
Illinois was unable to counter in the first half, leaving the score a 3-0 heading into the intermission.
The Blue and White showed no sign of slowing down entering the second half as Weber flicked in another goal at the 47:20 mark. The sophomore received the ball on a cross from freshman Brittany Basinger (Purcellville, Va.) and put it in from point blank range to give the Lions a 4-0 advantage.
Hayes capped the scoring in the 50th minute with her 16th goal of the year. Weber found Hayes inside the 18 yard box and the senior slipped the ball past Illinois keeper Claire Wheatly from 12 yards deep.
U of I's best scoring opportunity came in the 71st minute as Meegan Johnston attempted to get the Illini on the board. The midfielder took a shot from 20 yards out that nearly went in but PSU keeper Britt Eckerstrom (Germantown, Md.) came up big, tipping the ball over the net to keep Illinois scoreless.
The Fighting Illini made another attempt with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Kassidy Brown drilled the ball but was unable to get past keeper Meghan Kaminski (Doylestown, Pa.), who collected the save to preserve the shutout.
"Illinois is a good team, we have watched them a ton," said Walsh. "We did not let them off their heels and it's tough to come back when you're on someone else's field, especially Jeffrey Field. They continued to battle but we were good today."
The Blue and White return to action next weekend as they travel west to take on Iowa and Big Ten frontrunner, Nebraska. The Lions will meet the Hawkeyes at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on Friday before taking on the Corn Huskers on Sunday in a 2:00 p.m. match-up.