Women's Soccer
Illini Downs Iowa 2-1 in Big Ten Opener

Vanessa DiBernardo recorded her first goal of the season on her first shot just four minutes into the game
Vanessa DiBernardo recorded her first goal of the season on her first shot just four minutes into the game

Sept. 16, 2012

Final Stats

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini recorded their second multi-goal game of the season as they kicked off Big Ten play with a 2-1 win over Iowa. The game marked the first official appearance of head coach Janet Rayfield and junior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo with the Orange and Blue squad after winning the U20 World Cup in Japan with team USA. DiBernardo scored the Illini's first goal of the match and freshman Nicole Breece netted the eventual game winner with Megan Pawloski producing the assists on both plays.

Vanessa DiBernardo wasted no time tallying a goal on her first shot within the first four minutes of the game. After a quick sequence of one touch passes between DiBernardo, Nicole Denenberg and Megan Pawloski, Vanessa was able to release a shot that found the lower left corner of the net.

"It was a great sequence and one you might not expect with so little training time together," said Rayfield. It was great to get Vanessa back into the mix and with some more training I think we will get in sync even more consistently."

Iowa, who came to Champaign with an undefeated record of 9-0-0, fought back in the 23rd-minute with a goal off of a set piece. Sophomore Melanie Pickert took the kick from just inside Illinois' half and picked up the assist on the play. The chipped ball soared to the penalty marker area inside the box where junior Alex Melin sent it into the goal with a well placed header. The tally was Melin's first goal of the season.

Illinois had a chance to reclaim the lead in the 29th-minute when Breece split a pair of Hawkeye defenders and then was tripped from behind in the box and awarded a penalty kick taken by DiBernardo. However, freshman goalie Meg Goodson guessed the right direction and made an athletic diving save. 

Despite the negated penalty, Illinois would get their go-ahead goal just one minute later. Pawloski used her flip throw-in to send a ball deep into Iowa's penalty box. Breece, who was waiting around the six-yard box then redirected the ball with her head to the back of the net for the 2-1 lead. Breece now leads the Illini with two goals and five points on the year and Pawloski leads the squad with three total assists. 

"Nicole is going to be fun to watch over the next four years," said Rayfield. "She's got a 1-V-1 ability that I think will continue to get better, but she also gets her head up and has the ability to find other people in the attack."

The Illinois offense continued to roll in the second half, applying pressure to the Hawkeyes defense by taking shot-after-shot and controlling the majority of the possession. Illinois, who averaged 11.6 shots per game coming into the contest, recorded a season best 28 shots this afternoon.

Furthermore, DiBernardo achieved a new home Illini record by tallying 11 shots in the game. DiBernardo held the previous record of 10 which was set against Toledo last season.

Iowa freshman goalie Hannah Clark who subbed in to start the second half was active in the period, accomplishing six total saves. Illini keeper Steph Panozzo registered another solid game in goal, not allowing more than one goal for the seventh time this season. Panozzo also recorded five saves in the matchup, bringing her season total to 30.

In the closing five minutes, the Orange and Blue did a fantastic job of keep-away, possessing the ball in Iowa's half as the clock ticked away. By the time the Hawkeyes regained the ball the final seconds had expired. 

"I thought we kept and moved the ball well especially when we were composed," said Rayfield. "There was a five minute or six minute period in the second half where I think we had the ball most of the time."

Illinois outshot the Hawkeyes 28-13 and had more shots on goal with 10 compared to Iowa's six. Furthermore, the Illini had a 7-4 corner kick advantage.  

"We had 28 shots today and thats fantastic," said Rayfield. "Now we have to make some of those a little bit more dangerous."

Sunday's match marked the 150th Big Ten regular season contest in the soccer program's history as the Illini capped it off with a victory, moving to 4-3-1 on the year. In addition, Illinois is now 4-0-0 when scoring first and 19-0-0 spanning the past two seasons. Illinois also remains undefeated at home this season with victories over Western Michigan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and now Iowa at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium.

Next weekend, the Orange and Blue welcome Big ten foes Ohio State and Penn State in a Friday, Sunday matchup. The Illini first clash with the Buckeyes on Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. CT, then host the Nittany Lions on Sept. 23 at 12 p.m. CT. The Illinois-Penn State contest will also be the annual Illini Soccer Fest that includes free food for the first 1,000 fans.