CARBONDALE — Madison Bennion gave her dad a birthday present money couldn't buy Friday night.
The freshman forward volleyed a cross from Kathryn Creedon from about 20 yards out on the left side for the first goal in SIU women's soccer history. The drive 10 minutes and 25 seconds into the match was all the Salukis needed to top Division II Illinois-Springfield 2-0 at the Hartzog Track and Field Complex and start their first official season off right.
Bennion's father, Robert, flew in from California on his 50th birthday to see it.
"I did it for him," Madison Bennion said. "It was a great moment for me, for the team, all of us together. Overall, getting that first goal in history, it's incredible, especially knowing it took the whole team effort to get there."
Emma Spotak added a second goal for the Salukis (1-0) in the 53rd minute in front of an announced crowd of 609 fans.
Spotak pounded one past Prairie Stars goalie Bailey Cross' right off Paityn Schneider's pass for the 2-0 lead. Spotak found some room and sailed it about 15 yards into the upper-left hand corner of the goal.
Freshman Dariana Mihalache got the win in goal after snaring four saves for the Salukis. Maddy Alaluf, another freshman goalkeeper, played the entire second half and stopped four shots.
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SIU had 18 shots, including seven on goal. The Salukis came up empty on seven corner kicks.
Illinois-Springfield had 14 shots, including eight on goal. The Prairie Stars didn't have any corner kicks in the first half but earned two opportunities in the second half.
SIU coach Grant Williams was happy to get on the board early.
"You try to put good attacking pieces on the field and let them do that, and I wouldn't say that we necessarily scripted that, but you know they have the ability to make plays," he said. "When you have an opportunity to serve, we talk about how to attack those balls in the box. Maddy's a good player and plays at a high level. I'm not surprised at all that she ended up on the back of that one."
Madison Bennion was happy the team was done sweating its first official victory. The Salukis beat Tennessee Tech in their first exhibition match, but dropped exhibition matches to Illinois-Chicago and Southeast Missouri State last week.
"Starting the program off with a win is super important for us, as a new team and kind of pushing us where we want to be," she said. "Just kind of a push going forward, like, 'We can do it.' Build off what we have to work on now. We have a lot to work on, obviously, but that first one, it's kind of that starting point for us, so we're gonna go for it."