They already won the crown, but the Big Ten tournament continues to haunt them.
For the second year in a row Illinois (10-7-3) upset the No. 3 Penn State women’s soccer team (17-3-1) with a 1-0 victory on Friday in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament in Bloomington, Ind.
The Nittany Lions clinched their 15th consecutive Big Ten regular season title with a 1-1 draw against No. 24 Michigan on Oct. 21, but the Big Ten tournament has been a challenge for the team the past two seasons.
Sept. 8 was the last time the Lions found themselves with a loss on their record, 13 games ago in a 3-1 defeat against No. 4 BYU.
Penn State handled Illinois in a 4-0 victory on Sept. 23, but could not capitalize on its numerous attempts on Friday.
The Illini have been on a tear in the tournament in what Penn State coach Erica Walsh called one of the gutsiest performances she has seen in recent years. Illinois went down a player and two goals early in its 3-2 overtime victory against Minnesota.
Walsh said the team was focusing on limiting the Illini’s most powerful offensive threat, Vanessa DiBernardo, who was held to only three shots with none on goal on Friday.
Possession was largely in the Lions’ favor in the majority of the first half. But in the 41st minute the ball bounced around in Penn State’s box as Illinois’ Nicole Breece chipped a shot over the keeper into the back of the net giving the Illini the 1-0 advantage.
Despite outshooting the Illini 18-12 and getting eight shots on goal compared to Illinois’ two, the Lions could not get past the supreme goalkeeping of Steph Panozzo.
With this loss the Lions are eliminated from the Big Ten tournament, but will now have time to get back to training and rest before learning on Monday who they will play in the NCAA tournament beginning on Nov. 10.