Women's Soccer
Illini Victorious Over Michigan State, 3-2

DiBernardo scored three goals tonight including the game winner in the 84th minute
DiBernardo scored three goals tonight including the game winner in the 84th minute

Oct. 4, 2012

Final Stats

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Under the lights on Big Ten Network, the Fighting Illini women's soccer team produced a 3-2 come from behind win over the visiting Michigan State Spartans. Junior Vanessa DiBernardo earned her second career hat trick this evening, with junior Megan Pawloski tallying the assist on the second goal. The Orange and Blue have now won five straight against the Spartans and 13 straight without suffering a defeat, as they move their record in the overall series to 15-3-2. 

Michigan State got on the board in the sixth-minute off a free kick taken by Olivia Stander. The senior's shot from about 20 yards out at the top left corner of the Illini box found the inside of the far post. The strike marked the first goal from Michigan State against Illinois since 2002, spanning 1,161 minutes and 29 seconds of play. 

The Orange and Blue would draw even in the 28th-minute when a Spartans hand ball was called inside their own box, resulting in an Illini penalty kick. DiBernardo rose to the challenge and blasted the ball past the keeper.

Michigan State gained the lead again on a Megan Marsack goal in the 54th-minute. Marsack, from 16 yards out in the center of the box, struck a shot that bounced off the inside portion of the left post and went in.

However, Illinois would not let the goal deter them as they once more rallied to draw even just 14 minutes later in the 68th-minute. After a give-and-go with Pawloski freed up space for DiBernardo, the junior released a shot that hit the crossbar and bounced down and in behind the Spartan goalkeeper. 

Michigan State and Illinois battled in two overtime games last season, but DiBernardo and company prevented that from happening again in the 84th-minute. From 23 yards out, DiBernardo ripped a free kick that curved to the inside right portion of the goal. The tally was DiBernardo's fourth goal of the season.  

"We were with the wind at the end of the game and right before I shot Niki Read told me to just hit it hard," said DiBernardo. "I followed her advice and I'm glad i did."

Senior Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo preserved the lead over the final minutes as the clock drew to zero and Illinois earned their second come from behind victory this season and second in three games. Panozzo also highlighted the game by coming off of her line several times with sliding saves preventing Michigan State breakaways, and kept the Spartans at bay over the final 36 minutes with a couple of point-blank reaction saves. Panozzo finished with six total saves on the night. 

"The last three games have been as much about grit as they have about soccer," said head coach Janet Rayfield. "Tonight I think we showed grit and kept fighting back. It's great to see a performance like Vanessa's but it was definitely a team effort."

With the victory, Illinois moves to 7-4-2 overall while the Spartans drop to 8-4-2. The Illini kept Michigan State in the middle of the Big Ten pack at 2-3-1 in conference play as Illinois inches closer to the top two teams with a 4-1-1 mark in Big Ten competition. Penn State currently resides in the top spot at 5-0-0 with Michigan in second at 4-0-1. 

The Orange and Blue outshot the Spartans 22-17 but both squads recorded eight shots on goal. Michigan State was very physical this evening tallying 14 total fouls. Finally, Illinois achieved a 5-2 corner kick advantage. 

DiBernardo moved up in the Illinois record books after her hat trick performance. The Naperville native is now third on the Illinois career scoring list with 31 goals. DiBernardo is also now tied for fourth with Jessica Bayne in Illinois career points with 66. 

Illinois maintained other streaks accomplished this season as well. The Illini jump to 5-0-0 in night games. In addition, Illinois has now won its past 75 games when netting at least three goals in a game, which dates back to the 1999 season. The Illini also move to 6-0-2 when they have outshot their opponent and 5-1-0 at home. 

The Illini have eight days before their next contest as they travel to the northern portion of the Midwest to challenge Minnesota on Friday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. CT, then Wisconsin on Sunday, Oct. 14, at 4 p.m. CT. The Illinois-Wisconsin showdown will air live on the Big Ten Network.