17-5-2 (8-2-1 Big Ten) // NCAA Tournament Round of 32 // Big Ten Tournament Champions // 2nd Place Big Ten // Highlight Video
Illinois adjusted to changes all over the field to earn one of the most successful campaigns in program history, finishing 17-5-2 overall while securing the second Big Ten Tournament Championship in program history. The Orange and Blue also earned second in the conference with an 8-2-1 mark, tied for the most Big Ten victories in a single season in program history.
Illinois opened the year with three consecutive blowout victories, outscoring Gonzaga, Toledo and Ball State, 15-2, to begin the season with the offensive firepower expected of the dynamic squad. After a set-back against USC, Illinois downed Pac-12 foe Colorado before undertaking a difficult road trip that sent the Orange and Blue to Baton Rouge, La., for two games during the LSU Invitiational, including one against #14 Pepperdine, before heading to Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State.
Upon returning from the regular season program-record five-game road trip, during which Illinois went 1-3-1, the Illini responded with eight consecutive wins over conference opponents to vault themselves into Big Ten Tournament Title competition - climbing from the 10th spot in the standings all the way up to second place to secure the No. 2 seed for tournament action.
To begin the streak, the Illini dominated Indiana, 4-1, before taking down Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin by identical 1-0 scores. After dominating Northwestern, 3-0, Illinois' shutout streak was finally snapped at Nebraska during a 3-1 victory - with the Cornhuskers scoring in the second half to end 2011's longest streak at 533:36 minutes, only 77:32 shy of eclipsing the program record.
The Orange and Blue wrapped up the regular season with a hard-fought 3-2 win over a desperate Michigan squad in need of a win to stay in contention for the Big Ten Tournament - closing the regular season at 14-4-1 overall.
The Illini then headed to Evanston, Ill., to participate in the Big Ten Tournament as the predicted eventual champion according to various news outlets, including the Big Ten Network. Illinois needed a strong penalty kick performance from goalkeeper Steph Panozzo to move past Ohio State in the quarterfinals, with Panozzo stopping a pair of Buckeye attempts to send the Orange and Blue to the next round with a 4-2 PK win after tying, 1-1, through extra time.
In the semifinals, Marissa Mykines proved clutch against the Michigan State Spartans in a similar fashion to her performance during the regular season in East Lansing, Mich. Mykines connected for the lone goal of the game during overtime, slotting a shot by the outstretched arms of MSU's Jill Flietstra as Mykines had accomplished nearly one month prior in double overtime during the regular season contest between both teams.
Mykines again proved clutch during the championship contest. Against No. 11-nationally ranked Penn State, the Spokane, Wash., native found classmate Julie Ewing in front of the Nittany Lions goal with a perfect low cross, with Ewing re-directing the play on goal to break an early scoreless tie as Illinois played into the wind. After Penn State answered with a goal late in the first half to tie the contest at 1-1, and neither team notched a goal in the second frame, the title match headed to overtime. This time, NSCAA All-American Vanessa DiBernardo provided the game-ending shot following passes from Shayla Mutz and Nicole Denenberg in the 93rd minute to secure the second Big Ten Tournament Title in program history, playing through injury to secure the championship hardware.
With the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament locked up, the Orange and Blue drew defending National Champion Notre Dame in the first round, hosting the Fighting Irish at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium on Nov. 13. With sustained winds of over 40 MPH from the South, each team mainly controlled possession when it played with the wind at its back. Niki Read used the conditions to help propel a perfectly placed 35-yard shot just under the center of the cross bar but still out of the reach of Notre Dame goalkeeper Maddie Fox, providing the lone tally of the game in the 50th minute to send Illinois into the second round.
For their final contest, the Orange and Blue headed to No.4-nationally ranked Oklahoma State, falling to the Cowgirls, 1-0, in a hard fought game where the Illini outshot Oklahoma State, 18-12, and earned more corner kicks, 8-1.
On the season, Illinois eclipsed a trio of noteworthy team statistics. The 17 wins are the most in in any single Illinois season, one more than the previous record, while the eight consecutive wins and 12-game unbeaten streak stand as the longest such marks in the history of Illini soccer.