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Pilots grounded in 2nd round of NCAA tourney

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LINCOLN, Neb. --- The Illinois Illini used two second-half PK's and a late goal in overtime to defeat the No. 7 Portland Pilots 4-3 in an NCAA Second Round game played in chilly conditions at Nebraska Soccer Field on Friday. The Illini game-winner came with some confusion and just 1:09 remaining in the first overtime.

 

After an Illinois foul was called just outside Portland's 18, the Pilots were setting up to take the free kick. The Illini's Megan Pawloski then stepped in and played the ball as it was rolling between Pilot defenders before sending a pass to Janelle Flaws, who found the back of the net with the apparent game-winner.

 

The head referee allowed it, apparently ruling that the ball had returned to play, and Illinois (11-8-3) advances to the Third Round of the NCAA Playoffs.

 

Portland, a No. 3 seed, ends the season with a 17-3-1 overall record after advancing past at least the first round of the playoffs for the 14th consecutive year. Portland was also making its 21st NCAA postseason appearance in the past 22 years.

 

The Pilots were in control during the first half and jumped out to a 2-0 lead after goals from senior Micaela Capelle and freshman Danica Evans. Capelle scored on a though ball from freshman Parkes Kendrick in the 12th minute to hand the Pilots the early 1-0 lead. From near the right post, Capelle finished inside the left corner of the net for her team-best ninth goal of the year.

 

Then in the 27th minute, it was Capelle who set up Evans as Portland went ahead 2-0. Capelle fed Evans with a pass just inside the top of the 18, and the freshman forward hit a perfectly place shot inside the left post and out of the reach of Illinois goalkeeper Claire Wheatly. The goal is the fifth on the year for Evans.

 

The Illini got one back in the 54th minute when Vanessa DiBernardo scored an impressive goal. She had possession near the top left corner of the box and finished inside the upper 90 to pull Illinois within 2-1.

 

But Portland responded by re-taking a two-goal lead once again on the first career goal for Kendrick. Evans took the initial shot, which was saved by Wheatly, but Kendrick was there to put away a shot from a tough angle, making it a 3-1 game.

 

The Illini were then awarded two PK's during the game's final 22 minutes of regulation to pull even with the Pilots. Flaws converted the first free attempt in the 69th minute, and DiBernardo made the second in the 84th. Both PK's came after it was ruled that Portland had committed a foul inside the 18-yard box.

 

The Pilots had quality possession during the extra time but were ultimately unable to connect on the final pass.

 

Portland goalkeeper and First Team All-West Coast Conference selection Erin Dees was solid in goal, finishing with six saves. Dees made a spectacular save on a shot from Flaws from point-blank range in the first half, and she made what was then a game-saving diving stop on a another shot from Flaws that preserved the tie, sending the game to overtime.


Portland had some opportunities as well to stretch the lead throughout the match. In a one-v-one chance for Capelle in the second half, Wheatly came up with a big-time kick save. Wheatly also denied a shot from Lorielle McCluskie, who somehow got a header on-target off a Portland corner kick.

 

Those were the only two saves for Wheatly as the Pilots took 11 shots total, placing five on-goal. Illinois attempted 24 shots on the day.

 

Temperatures remained in the teens throughout the entire match, and the field had to be cleared of snow before the game began.

 

Illinois advances to face the winner between site host Nebraska and Boston College.

Release from UP Media Services.

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