OMAHA, Neb. – The Illinois State soccer team is the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion for the second-consecutive season, after defeating Indiana State, 5-1, in Sunday’s title match at Morrison Stadium. The Redbirds earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which starts next weekend.
“We had some challenges and setbacks this year, but I give our girls a ton of credit for sticking together,” head coach Drew Roff said. “Here we are again, back-to-back champions. It’s never easy to repeat, because everybody is gunning for you. I’m really proud of our effort, and I am really excited for them to get another chance to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Two-time MVC Player of the Year Rachel Tejada scored the game’s first goal and tallied two assists in the win on her way to being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Anna Stinson, Lauren Koehl, Aimee Wronski and Kyla Cross scored the other goals, with Stinson, goalkeeper Aryn Newsom and Rachel Bostick also being named to the All-Tournament Team.
Tejada scored her third goal of the tournament and 18th of the season in the 26th minute to open the scoring. The sophomore collected a ball that was last deflected by Stinson in the penalty area and fired a shot past Indiana State keeper Erin Mitchell to give the Redbirds a 1-0 advantage.
The Redbirds added on two more goals as the first half wound down. In the 35th minute, Stinson collected a ball in the midfield before blasting a shot from 35 yards out that beat Mitchell to put ISU up 2-0. Less than two minutes later, freshman Lauren Koehl stole a ball from a Sycamore player, advanced to the top of the box, and slotted one into the back of the net for her second goal of the season.
The Redbirds entered intermission with a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard and 16-3 advantage in shots taken. However, the Sycamores responded by scoring less than two minutes into the second half. Elle Steele snuck a shot inside the far post for her third goal of the season, making it 3-1 Redbirds.
“The main message at halftime when you have a lead like that is, ‘Don’t take your foot off of the gas,’” Roff said. “Indiana State was able to get the next goal and make it 3-1. Our team tends to keep us on the edge of our seat, but to their credit, we regained control of the game. I thought Aimee Wronski scoring that fourth goal allowed us to relax a bit, and then we started to knock the ball around and control the game.”
Wronski pushed the lead back to three goals in the 72nd minute with her third tally of the season. Then, Cross rounded out the scoring in the 83rd minute with her eighth goal of the season and the final one of the match. Tejada collected assists on both goals, giving her a career-high 10 on the season.
The Redbirds are the first team to repeat as champions since Creighton achieved the feat in 2004 and 2005. The four titles rank third in conference history, behind Evansville’s six and Creighton’s five.
Illinois State will learn its NCAA opponent and location during Monday’s 3:30 selection show on NCAA.com. The team will watch the show in the Kaufman Football Building. Media is welcome to attend, as coaches and student-athletes will be available for interviews following the announcement.