Midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo made a habit of re-writing the Illini soccer record book during her freshman season. She scored 11 goals on the year, which led the Big Ten and were the most goals for an Illini player since 2007. She also led the conference in points (27), goals per game and points per game during the regular season while helping lead Illinois to a fourth-place Big Ten finish and return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
A native of Naperville, Ill., DiBernardo helped the Illini to a 7-0 record when scoring at least one goal. Her four-goal performance against Purdue broke school records for most goals in a half (3), most points in a half (6), most goals in a game (4) and most points in a game (8). Her outstanding performance led to her being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, first-team All-Big Ten, first-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes, second-team Top Drawer All-Rookie Team and a finalist for the Soccer News Net Women's Player of the Year.
Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a stellar season for the Illini football team. He turned in many unforgettable performances on his way to earning Freshman All-America honors and six Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. Perhaps the most memorable was in a blowout win over Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Illinois' first bowl win in 11 years. Scheelhaase completed 13 consecutive passes to start the game, threw for a career-high 242 yards and ran for another 53 yards and a touchdown in the 38-14 victory.
For the season, Scheelhaase completed 155 of 264 passes for 1,825 yards, 17 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions. He was particularly dialed-in late in the season, tossing 13 touchdowns and just one interception over the last seven games while leading the Illini to a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten. A native of Kansas City, Mo., Scheelhaase broke the Illinois freshman rushing record and the all-time single-season QB rushing mark with 868 yards on the ground for the season. Under his direction, the Illini offense led the Big Ten in rushing and broke school records for both total points (343) and points per game (32.54) in a season.