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Photos from No. 15 Illinois soccer's 3-2 upset of No. 9 Penn State in front of a school-record 2,667 fans.
After 10 seasons and 130 victories as head coach of the Fighting Illini, Janet Rayfield has established the University of Illinois women's soccer team as one of the premier programs in the nation. Year after year, her Illinois teams break school records and set new benchmarks for conference and national levels of success.
Rayfield's first decade of leadership at Illinois culminated in one of the most successful seasons in program history - with the Illini earning a 17-5-2 record, the 2011 Big Ten Tournament Title and yet another NCAA Tournament appearance, the eighth during Rayfield's tenure. During the 24-game schedule, the Orange and Blue earned a program-best eight-game winning streak and 12-game undefeated mark, while the 17 victories eclipsed a previous single-season high as well.
Though the Orange and Blue fell in the NCAA Tournament Second Round at Elite Eight-bound and No. 4-nationally ranked Oklahoma State, 1-0, to end the remarkable year despite outshooting the Cowgirls, Rayfield left an indelible mark on the 2011 college soccer season, one during which Illinois experienced tremendous success in tandem with adapting a new formation strategy and employing five first-time starters on the field.
The NSCAA recognized sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo with All-America honors while the Big Ten named DiBernardo the Midfielder of the Year and Soccer America named the Naperville, Ill., native a second team All-American as well. DiBernardo continued to grow throughout the season under Rayfield's tutelage - finishing with the second-most single-season goals (17) and points (39) in program history while accumulating the third-most game-winning tallies (eight) in the NCAA over the course of the season. On defense, converted midfielder Jenna Carosio also benefited from Rayfield's guidance throughout her senior season and first as a starter. Carosio filled the void in the center of Illinois' defense left by the graduation of Danielle Kot and Krystin Miller, earning Big Ten Defender of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten honors with DiBernardo. Illinois was equally impressive in the classroom, with Carosio tallying NSCAA Academic All-America honors in addition to totaling CoSIDA Academic All-District with DiBernardo and Megan Pawloski, while 12 players were named Academic All-Big Ten award recipients. In total, more than 70 individual and team awards were handed out to the Orange and Blue over the course of the 2011 season.
The Orange and Blue opened the fall with the dynamic offensive firepower expected, outscoring Gonzaga, eventual MAC Champion Toledo and Ball State, 15-2, to race out to a 3-0 mark to start the season. The schedule-opening firepower became the 26th highest scoring offense in the country of 330 ranked teams by seasons-end, with the Orange and Blue going on to net 142 points on 53 goals and 36 assists - the most in Rayfield's tenure. However, as the season progressed into the all-important conference slate, the true dynamic nature of Rayfield's program blossomed as the defense evolved into the lock-down unit needed to propel Illinois to the No. 2 seeding in the Big Ten Tournament.
After blowing out Indiana, 4-1, the Illini produced five consecutive shutouts, including four straight by one-goal margins as Illinois downed Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Northwestern in succession. Though the Illini finally allowed a goal at Nebraska to end the 554-minute shutout streak - only 77 minutes shy of the program record - Illinois continued to reel off victories with triumphs over the Cornhuskers and Michigan capping the regular season and establishing the program record for consecutive victories.
Entering the 2011 Big Ten Tournament as a predicted favorite to win it all, the Orange and Blue did not disappoint. After using penalty kicks to fight past Ohio State in the quarterfinals after tying through double overtime, Illinois downed Michigan State, 1-0, in overtime during the semifinals and again used extra minutes to beat No. 11-nationally ranked Penn State in dramatic fashion in the final round, 2-1, as Rayfield secured the second conference championship of her tenure.
With the automatic bid for the conference secure, Illinois put its 11-game unbeaten streak on the line against the defending National Champions, Notre Dame, in the NCAA Tournament First Round. In a season of firsts, the Orange and Blue continued their record-setting ways with a 1-0 win over the Fighting Irish - becoming the first team to beat the defending champs in the first round in the tournament's 30-year history. The 17th and final victory of the year for Illinois simultaneously marked the program-high for single-season victories as the Illini had previously finished with 16 wins on three occasions - all under Rayfield.
The 2010 season saw Rayfield guide the Illini to their seventh NCAA tournament appearance since assuming head coaching duties before the 2002 season. Throughout the regular season, Illinois exhibited the dominance against non-conference opponents and visiting foes that has made the Orange and Blue successful throughout the program's history. Illinois rolled through its out-of-conference slate, accumulating a 7-1-0 record with six shutout victories while holding opponents to only six goals in nine home games, earning an 8-1-0 mark in the process.
In 2010, Rayfield created a dynamic offense while maintaining the shutdown defense that has highlighted her tenure with Illinois, earning a 13-5-1 overall record, 6-3-1 Big Ten mark and national rankings throughout much of the non-conference slate and the entire Big Ten schedule. The 32 goals produced by the Illinois offense marked the second-highest seasonal total in program history as the defense stifled opponents, holding the Illini's foes to only 16 goals in 19 games, the third-fewest ever for an Illinois team.
Throughout the 2009 season, different Illini stepped forward to secure victories against one of the most difficult schedules in the country. The Illini faced 12 eventual 2009 NCAA Tournament participants, including five Big Ten teams. With her experience facing high-caliber opponents, Rayfield was able to guide Illinois to victories over 2009 NCAA Tournament-bound Illinois State, UC Santa Barbara, Milwaukee and Michigan State by a combined score of 15-1.
Illinois also saw the emergence of young talent on the field throughout 2009 under Rayfield's guidance as Niki Read earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors and Shayla Mutz was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Rayfield also successfully guided her fourth player into the Women's Professional Soccer league (WPS) as midfielder Jackie Santacaterina was drafted with the 60th pick by the Chicago Red Stars.
The 2008 season was an absolute success, as Illinois made a trip to the NCAA Round of 16 for the third time in the past five seasons. Three Illini earned All-Big Ten honors, including first-team defender Emily Zurrer and second team honorees midfielder Jackie Santacaterina and defender Danielle Kot. Zurrer also became the first Illini to earn All-America honors three years in a row. Additionally, goalkeeper Alexandra Kapicka was named a National Player of the Year finalist by Soccer News Net.
The past year also was special because of the development of the WPS league. Three Illini that played under Rayfield's tutelage were drafted, including Ella Masar, Mary Therese McDonnell and Christen Karniski. Rayfield also gained valuable coaching experience in the summer of 2008 as an assistant with the U.S. Women's National Team for two of its matches against Canada.
In 2007, Rayfield led the Illini to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, advancing to the second round for the fourth year in a row. The squad featured seven All-Big Ten selections, including three named to the all-freshman team, both of which were the most in school history. The Illini also had two representatives named National Soccer Coaches Association of America Scholar All-Americans in McDonnell and Kara Gostisha. In addition, McDonnell also earned the school's prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor while her sister, Shannon, was honored with the school's Fighting Illini Spirit Award.
Rayfield guided the 2006 squad to a school record-tying 16 wins, a top-10 ranking, a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and a berth in the Round of 16. That Illini team also became the first in the history of the Big Ten to boast the conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year and the Freshman of the Year in Ella Masar (offensive), Zurrer (co-defensive) and Chichi Nweke (freshman). In addition, Masar was named a second-team All-America selection by the NSCAA, while Zurrer was a third-team selection by the NSCAA.
The 2005 season was no different, despite entering the season with more question marks than in previous years. The Illini wasted no time answering those doubts, defeating No. 17 Nebraska 1-0 early in the season. The Orange and Blue proceeded to extend its streak of first-round Big Ten Tournament wins to seven and qualify for its third-straight NCAA Tournament and fifth in the last six years. Illinois defeated No. 20 Florida in the first round on the Gators' home field, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year.
After the season, senior defender Christen Karniski became the most decorated Illini in school history, earning recognition as the Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year, second team All-American by the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz, and first team Scholar All-America by NSCAA among her 10 postseason awards.
The Illini were just as successful in 2004 as Rayfield led her team to their best postseason record in school history, advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Illini finished the season with a record of 4-0 against the always-powerful Big 12 conference, which included a 2-1 come-from-behind upset over ninth-seeded Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The squad also set a school record for consecutive wins (7), with Tara Hurless earning All-America status for the second-straight year.
In 2003, Rayfield led the Illini to the best season in the program's history with a 16-4-2 record, a top-10 national ranking, the program's first Big Ten Tournament title and a top-16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the 2003 Illini featured two All-Americans in goalkeeper Leisha Alcia and forward Tara Hurless, a first for Illinois. For her efforts, Rayfield was named Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year by Soccer Buzz.
Rayfield not only has a wealth of soccer experience but also a fierce determination to succeed and an immense amount of respect from her peers. Rayfield served as President of the NSCAA, an organization that includes over 16,000 members, in 2003-04. In addition, she continues to assist at the youth national team level whenever possible.
A United States Soccer Federation 'A' Licensed Coach, Rayfield was an assistant for Illinois in 1999 under former head coach Tricia Taliaferro and helped the Illini to a 12-8-1 record and the school's first-ever trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. That season, the Illini entered the NSCAA poll for the first time and climbed as high as No. 15.
Rayfield returned to Illinois in 2002 after serving two years as a United States National Staff Coach for Region II. Her duties consisted of player identification, player development and coaching education within the region. During that time, she also served as a U-19 and U-16 National Team Assistant Coach.
"Janet will be able to provide the kind of leadership and stability this team needs," Director of Athletics Ron Guenther said when Rayfield was hired in 2002. "She has exceptional contacts as both a player and a coach at the national and international level that will allow us to continue to develop this young program."
In her playing days, Rayfield was one of the best. She played collegiately at the University of North Carolina from 1979-82 and helped build the program from the ground up. She led the Tar Heels to the 1981 AIAW National Championship and a 23-0 record in only their third year. That season, Rayfield took home the Nike Player of the Year award, All-America honors and was named one of the top 10 soccer players in America (male or female).
In 1982, she led the Tar Heels to the first-ever NCAA women's soccer championship. That championship would be the first of 18 NCAA national titles in the storied history of the North Carolina program.
During her career at North Carolina, Rayfield was a captain all four years and led the Tar Heels to an overall record of 73-9 in that span. She also left her mark all over the Carolina record books. Today she still ranks in the top three in seven different offensive categories, including holding the school records for most goals in a game (6) and most points in a game (12), both set against the Chapel Hill Club in 1979. She also currently ranks second to Mia Hamm in career goals with 93, third in career points with 223, third in single-season points with 74 in 1981 and tied for third in single-season goals with 30 in both 1979 and 1981.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematical Sciences from North Carolina in 1983, Rayfield worked as a Senior Software Engineer for E-Systems in Garland, Texas, where she wrote numerous computer programs and worked her way up to management level.
When she wasn't working, Rayfield was still heavily involved with the game she loves. She played seven seasons with the Ladies' Football Club in Dallas and was the captain on six of those squads, leading them to three National Titles in 1985, '87 and '89. During that same time, she was head coach of the Texas Spirit Soccer Club that won several Washington (D.C.) area and Dallas Cup titles.
In 1990, Rayfield returned to the collegiate ranks to coach at the University of Arkansas. After three years as an assistant, she was named head coach at Arkansas in January of 1993. In six seasons at the helm of the Razorback program, she coached the 1996 SEC West Champions, two SEC tournament finalists, four All-Region players, six All-SEC players, and 27 Academic All-SEC performers while compiling an overall record of 45-64-7.
At Arkansas, Rayfield earned a Master of Science in Exercise Science/Biomechanics and also served as a USYSA Olympic Development staff coach and as a scout for both the U.S. Women's World Cup and Olympic teams. While doing all of this, she was still able to continue her playing career, as she led the Dallas Sting Soccer Club to the Over-30 National Championship in 1993.
The Rayfield File
University of North Carolina, B.S. in Mathematical Sciences
University of Arkansas, M.S. in Exercise Science/Biomechanics
University of North Carolina, 1979-82
Ladies' Football Club (Dallas), 1983-90
Head Coach, Texas Spirit Soccer Club, 1983-90
Assistant Coach, University of Arkansas, 1990-93
Staff Coach, U.S. Youth Soccer Association Regional ODP, 1993-95
Staff Coach, Arkansas Olympic Development Program, 1996-98
Head Coach, University of Arkansas, 1993-98
Assistant Coach, University of Illinois 1999-00
National Staff Coach, U.S. Soccer - Region II, 2000-02
Technical Advisor/Assistant, U.S. Women's National Team, 2009-present
Head Coach, University of Illinois, 2002-present
Rayfield's Year-By-Year Results at Illinois
Year Record Accomplishments 2002 9-11-1 Eighth in Big Ten 2003 16-4-2 Big Ten Tournament Champions; NCAA Tournament First Round; Second in Big Ten 2004 16-6-2 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight; Fourth in Big Ten 2005 12-7-3 NCAA Tournament Second Round; Fourth in Big Ten 2006 16-8-0 NCAA Tournament Sweeet Sixteen; Big Ten Tournament Runners-Up; Second in Big Ten 2007 12-7-2 NCAA Tournament Second Round; Third in Big Ten 2008 12-9-2 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen; Fifth in Big Ten 2009 7-9-3 Tied-Eighth in Big Ten 2010 13-5-1 NCAA Tournament First Round; Fourth in Big Ten 2011 17-5-2 Big Ten Tournament Champions; NCAA Tournament Second Round; Second in Big Ten TOTAL 130-71-18
Milestone Victories at Illinois
First Victory: Illinois 4, Butler 2; Sept. 6, 2002
First vs. Big Ten: Illinois 3, Northwestern 1; Sept. 29, 2002
First in Big Ten Tournament: Illinois 4, #11 Penn State 3; Nov. 7, 2002
First Big Ten Tournament Title: Illinois 2, Michigan 0; Nov. 9, 2003
First in NCAA Tournament: Illinois 2, Rice 0; Nov. 12, 2004
First vs. NSCAA Top-25: Illinois 3, #25 Cincinnati 0; Sept. 8, 2002
First vs. NSCAA Top-10: Illinois 1, #8 Kansas 0; Sept. 14, 2004
50th Career Victory: Illinois 5, Minnesota 2; Oct. 6, 2002
50th Victory at Illinois: Illinois 1, Indiana 0; Oct. 21, 2005
100th Career Victory: Illinois 4, Syracuse 0; Sept. 8, 2006
100th Victory at Illinois: Illinois 5, Michigan State 0; Oct. 30, 2009
150th Career Victory: Illinois 3, Cincinnati 0; Sept. 11, 2010
Rayfield By The Numbers (As of Nov. 19, 2011)
1 Rank of the 2006 recruiting class in the Great Lakes region
3 Times she has reached at least the Round of 16 with Illinois
3.46 GPA that earned her 2010-11 squad the NSCAA Team Academic Award
8 Times she has taken Illinois to the NCAA Tournament
7 Highest rank at Illinois - by Soccer Buzz on Nov. 10, 2003
8 NCAA Round she guided Illinois to in 2004
9 National rank of the 2006 recruiting class
10 Seasons at Illinois
13 Highest ranking of the 2010 team - by the NSCAA on Oct. 19
14 First team All-Big Ten selections
19 Years of amateur and professional playing experience
21 Wins against ranked opponents
24 All-America honors bestowed on Rayfield's players
65 Wins vs. Big Ten teams in 10 seasons
74 Points scored in 1981 - 3rd in North Carolina school history
93 Career goals at North Carolina - 2nd in school history
95 Academic All-Big Ten Honorees
130 Career wins at Illinois
175 Career coaching wins
223 Career points at North Carolina - 3rd in school history