Second-Half Surge Leads Redbirds to MVC Semifinal Win
EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Down 1-0 at halftime, the top-seeded Illinois State soccer team scored three goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half to rally past fifth-seeded and tournament-host Evansville, 3-1, in Friday night's MVC Tournament semifinal match at McCutchan Stadium. Hannah Leinert scored two goals for ISU, including the game-winner, while Rachel Tejada scored once to lead the Redbirds into Sunday's championship match.
The Redbirds (13-6-0) had not trailed once in their last seven-plus games until Evansville's (9-6-4) Abby Springer put UE ahead in the 12th minute. ISU trailed at halftime for just the seventh time this season, the previous six of which ended in defeats. Head coach Drew Roff's halftime message to his team to elevate their game was well-received.
"I just said, `Hey, we're too good and we've worked too hard to play that way Let's turn it up a notch, and no matter if we win or lose, at least we can say we played a game that represented Illinois State soccer,'" Roff said of his halftime message. "We got it together and connected passes, won the 50-50 balls and created chances. It looked like our team in that second half."
Rejuvenated at the outset of the second half, the Redbirds evened the match quickly. In the 48th minute, Dagny Olson took a ball deep into the right corner before playing a cross to the near post. Tejada soared through the air and headed it home for her league-leading 15th goal of the season to tie the match, with Olson recording her fourth assist of the season.
Less than five minutes later, Leinert's first of two goals put the Redbirds ahead for good. Kyla Cross earned a corner kick that was taken by Rhianna Krutz from the left side. Leinert rose above the bodies in the penalty area and headed it into the back of the net to give ISU the 2-1 lead. Krutz's assist was her fourth of the campaign.
Leinert capped the scoring binge with her 12th goal of the season in the 59th minute. Cross chipped a ball to Tejada in the penalty area, who was met by UE goalkeeper Simone Busby about 12 yards out. Tejada laid a pass back to Leinert at the 18, who fired a shot into the open net for the 3-1 advantage. Cross and Tejada both increased their league-leading assist total to nine on the goal.
Leinert led all players with career-highs in shots (eight) and shots on goal (seven), with Tejada tallying seven shots, six of which came on goal. The duo has been dynamic all season for the Redbirds, including in the moments when their skill is needed most.
"Those two have the technique and physical attributes," Roff said of Tejada and Leinert. "When they are sharp, they are a handful. In the first half, we couldn't find any rhythm. We were just giving the ball away and couldn't find that good clean first touch a lot of times. I think they got on the same page and got locked in. Once those two get playing at that level, they are very hard to stop."
The Redbirds outshot the Purple Aces, 24-17, including 17-8 in shots on goal. ISU goalkeeper Aryn Newsom made seven saves, including several big ones at the end of the first half and very beginning of the second that kept it a 1-0 game and set the stage for the Redbird rally.
Illinois State will play for its third-straight MVC Tournament title against No. 2 seed Indiana State, Sunday at 1 p.m., in a rematch of last year's championship game. The match will air on FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports Indiana, FOX Sports Kansas City, FOX College Sports, ESPN3 (outside of the Valley footprint), DirecTV (Channel 671), Dish Network (Channel 418) and AT&T U-Verse (Channel 748). The telecast will also be shown on tape-delay at 4:30 p.m., CT on Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
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