History was made Thursday evening when the first ever night game was played under newly installed lights at Adelaide Street Field. It was done in a stellar fashion behind the Redbirds 8-0 rout of the Idaho Vandals.
Despite an overcast forecast that included a period of light showers and cold temperatures, a crowd of 300-plus still showed up to witness the first ever game under the lights. The home fan base included various members of the different athletic teams at ISU along with loyal family members and friends.
The rain and wet surface did not deter the Redbirds offensive attack, which was on fire the entire night. The first goal of the game came in the 12th minute off an assist from Gabbi McArtor to Hannah Leinert who blasted the ball past Vandal keeper Torrell Stewart.
Stewart was in for a long night in the net as ISU came out firing on all cylinders. In the 22nd minute, Kelli Zickert scored on a rebound shot to increase the Redbirds lead to 2-0. In the 32nd minute, Brooke Ksiazek scored off of a corner kick. Just a couple minutes later, Emily Dickman scored off of another corner kick pushing the ISU lead to 4-0.
The defensive woes for Idaho did not stop there. Following a handball in the box in the 39th minute, Keri Kujawa was awarded a penalty kick. Kujawa stepped up to the box and blasted the ball past Stewart with ease. The goal gave ISU a 5-0 lead going into halftime. It was the largest halftime lead of the season for the Redbirds which kept them fired up after halftime.
Entering the second half, the Redbirds offensive dominance continued. Within a span of 10 minutes, Zickert, Leinert and Kujawa all racked up their second goals of the game. Rachel Tejada, Zickert and Lauren Koehl assisted the goals, respectively. The Rebirds defense and midfield suffocated the Vandals attack leading to the ninth shutout of the season. Goalkeeper Aryn Newsom was relieved by Vanessa Niestrom in the second half. Newsom and Niestrom combined for five saves.
For the first ever night game in program history, the Redbirds did not disappoint. Their dominance on the field was supported from the overall atmosphere the night provided.
Just to play at night, just to see the environment on the field, the electricity was definitely there, Drew Roff, head coach, said. Our players were excited all week to play. Despite the cold weather and the rain, we still had a great turnout. The team performed like a team who has been waiting for a long time to make it here.
The 8-0 rout allowed 22 different Redbirds to take action on the field. It seemed like no matter who was on the field, ISU continued to deliver.
It was a total team effort. We knocked the ball around and kept the level high, Roff said. We take pride in our team depth. There wasnt one player who I thought had a poor night. We came ready to play.
ISU finishes the season with a 13-5-0 overall record and 6-0-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. ISU was 8-1 at home outscoring their opponents 30-8 at Adelaide Street Field.
We have a target on our backs, Roff said. I think were the favorites but we have to play on our toes. Our players will definitely enjoy the home field advantage going into the tournament. Well have to be sharp.
For the first time in program history, the MVC Tournament will be hosted by ISU. Going into the tournament ISU holds the number one seed while the number two seed is held by Evansville. The top two seeds of the MVC Tournament receive a bye in the quarterfinals round. ISU will host the fifth-seeded Missouri State, who beat the fourth seeded Northern Iowa, at 6 p.m. Friday at home. Drake and Loyola will play in the other quarterfinal match for the right to play Evansville at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.
Following the semi-final matches on Friday, the MVC championship match will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday. All MVC Tournament matches will be played at Adelaide Street Field and will be broadcast live on ESPN3. Tickets can be purchased online at goredbirds.com/tickets or can be picked up in-person at the Illinois State Athletics Ticket Office.