Women's Soccer
Soccer 2012 Season In Review

Vanessa DiBernardo led the squad with 21 points on eight goals and five assists
Vanessa DiBernardo led the squad with 21 points on eight goals and five assists

Jan. 3, 2013

Complete Final Notes

FINAL 2012 Soccer Season Notes

• Overall Record: 10-9-4  //  Big Ten Record: 6-4-1 (T-4)

• Made 11th NCAA Tournament Appearance; Advanced to 2nd Round

• Made 5th Big Ten Tournament Championship Game Appearance

Vanessa DiBernardo named NSCAA All-American (Third Team) & NSCAA Scholar All-American (First Team)

• DiBernardo named All-Big Ten (First Team); Nicole Breece named to the All-Freshmen team

• 11 players named Academic All-Big Ten; Highest Team GPA amongst all Big Ten teams

• Produced first ever win against a Top-3 opponent (1-0 win vs #3 Penn State in BTT)

• Recorded first ever win in program history in Ann Arbor

Illinois Coaching STaff

Head Coach: Janet Rayfield, 185-144-29 overall (17th season) and 140-80-22 at Illinois (11th season)

Assistants: Leisha Alcia (sixth year) and Jeff Freeman (second year)

Just for kicks

 ... The Illini have won their past 77 games when netting three or more goals, dating back to the 1999 season.

... 2-0 in PK shootouts in postseason, advancing past Minnesota 3-2 and Missouri 3-0.

... BTT Semis: First Time Penn State had been shutout all season and first time in program history Illinois defeated a top-3 ranked school.

... BTT Quarterfinals: First time in program history the squad rallied to score two goals down a man to eventually advance.

... Went 5-1-1 when the team produced at least 2 goals.

... DiBernardo led the conference in shots (69) in Big Ten play while freshman Nicole Breece just cracked the top-10 in shots per game with 3.44.

... 11 of the 31 goals that have been scored this year have been by different Illini.

... Went 8-1-2 when they have outshot their opponent. 7-2-1 when scoring first.

... Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo achieved a new career high of 111 saves, surpassing last season's mark of 75. Tied Leisha Alcia for most saves in a single season.

2012 Season-In-Review

The 2012 season was a roller-coaster journey for the Fighting Illini. Illinois finished 10-9-4 overall while going 6-4-1 in conference play. The Orange and Blue reached their fifth Big Ten Tournament (BTT) Championship game and made their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, reaching the second round. The Illini's 2012 signature win came in the BTT semifinals when Illinois recorded the program's first ever win over a Top-3 opponent when they knocked off No. 3 Penn State.

Illinois started ranked No. 19 in the nation in the NSCAA pre-season poll. The Orange and Blue also started the year without head coach Janet Rayfield and All-American Vanessa DiBernardo, who spent the first month of the season in Japan, winning the gold medal in the U-20 World Cup with the U-20 U.S. Women's National Team. 

Illinois welcomed Western Michigan in the season opener where Panozzo and company registered the first shutout with a 1-0 victory. Then the Orange and Blue hit the road for three straight contests where they tied Illinois State 1-1, defeated UC Santa Barbara 1-0, then dropped 2-0 to No. 5 UCLA. The Illini returned home where they were triumphant over Wisconsin-Milwaukee 3-1, scoring their first multi-goal game of the season. Illinois then wrapped up non-conference play by competing in the Wake Forest Invitational, losing two hard fought 1-0 battles to No. 11 Virginia Tech and No. 17 Wake Forest. 

Rayfield and DiBernardo rejoined the squad for the start of Big Ten play vs Iowa, where Vanessa scored on her first shot of the game to eventually win 2-1. DiBernardo also set a new record for most shot attempts in a game with 11. The following weekend, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions rolled into town where freshman Taylore Peterson netted the game-winner against Ohio State before the Illini fell 4-0 to No. 11 Penn State. 

The ups and downs continued over the course of the next month, as the Orange and Blue went unbeaten in three straight contests, picking up a 2-1 win at Indiana, in which Illinois scored both their goals in the final 11 minutes of the game, tied Purdue 1-1, then beat Michigan State 3-2. DiBernardo scored her second career hat trick and picked up Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (OPOTW) for her performance against the Spartans. Unfortunately, the Illini then picked up three straight losses at Minnesota, at Wisconsin and vs. Northwestern. 

However, the Illini would then hit their stride and best stretch of the 2012 campaign, going 3-0-1 in the next four games. It started with a 4-1 win over Nebraska on Senior Day, in which Shayla Mutz, Niki Read, Steph Panozzo, Nicole Denenberg and Marissa Holden were acknowledged. 

Illinois followed the performance up with the program's first ever win in Ann Arbor, taking down the Wolverines in overtime with a 3-2 victory after trailing 2-0 at halftime. DiBernardo got the Illini on the board in the second half and then provided the assist to Niki Read for the equalizer in the 84th-minute. Nicole Breece set the stage in overtime when she drew a penalty kick which was converted by DiBernardo. For her efforts, DiBernardo won her second Big Ten OPOTW.

Five seed Illinois then received a rematch with four seed Minnesota in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament. Just 15 minutes into the match, the Illini were down two goals and player due to a red card. Knocked down but certainly not out, the Illini fought on, getting a goal from Aliina Weykamp before halftime. In the 66th-minute, the DiBernardo-Read connection struck again to tie the game and eventually force overtime. The Illini and Gophers then clashed in a penalty kick shootout where Illinois advanced 3-2 thanks to shots from Taylore Peterson, Kassidy Brown and Weykamp. 

Next up in the semi's was No. 3 Penn State, statistically rated as the best offense in the nation. The Orange and Blue scored off of a flip-throw restart by Megan Pawloski. The ball took a giant bounce deep inside the Penn State box where Nicole Breece, with her back to the goal, performed a spinning shot to the corner for the game-winner. Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo recorded seven huge saves that handed the eventual NCAA Tournament runner-up their only shut-out of the season. The victory marked the first ever against a Top-3 opponent. 

lllinois tried to utilize their comeback magic in the Championship game against Ohio State when they found themselves once again down 2-0. Allie Osoba scored in the 82nd-minute and the Illini continued to rally off shots but the Buckeyes held on for the title. 

Afterwards, the NCAA Tournament committee awarded the Illini with a first round match against Missouri in Columbia. Allie Osoba scored in her second straight contest that sent the 1-1 game into a penalty kick shoot-out where once again, Steph Panozzo did what she does best. The senior goalkeeper saved Mizzou's first three shots as the Illini connected on all three of their's to advance to the second round of the tournament. The Orange and Blue then flew into Chapel Hill where Coach Rayfield returned to her alma mater to face off against her former coach. After Breece shocked North Carolina by scoring in the opening minutes, the Tarheels finished strong, concluding the game with a 9-2 score and ending the Illini's season.   


"The 2012 team learned many things from this year," said Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield, "that this program is capable of being a Top-5 program; that the game is never over if you are willing to fight--even if you are down a goal and down a player; that day to day consistency leads to success when it matters." 

Furthermore, Coach Rayfield had the following to say about building toward the next year, "The 2013 team will have the opportunity to use the confidence and experience that this season provided. We are excited about the talent we will bring together and talent is maximized when it is blended with work ethic, discipline and commitment. I believe that this season has taught this team the secret of that combination."


For the second consecutive season, junior Vanessa DiBernardo received a spot on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List. She was one of 38 women's soccer athletes up for the Hermann Trophy, given to one collegiate soccer player of each gender in recognition of their excellence in the sport as the best athlete of that year. 

Junior defender Christina Farrell and Steph Panozzo were named to the Wake Forest Invitational All-Tournament Team. The duo limited the No. 17 and No. 11 teams in the nation to a combined two goals. 

Top Drawer Soccer (TDS) updated their top-100 upperclassmen list at the conclusion of post-season play this year, and DiBernardo climbed three spots to rank No. 7 in the nation. Also, TDS listed their top-20 players in the Big Ten with Vanessa climbing to the No. 2 spot. In addition, TDS released their post-season women's freshmen top 100. Nicole Breece checked in at the No. 24, climbing four spots from her pre-season ranking,  while Taylore Peterson secured the No. 49 spot. 

Vanessa DiBernardo was named Big Ten offensive player of the week for her game-winning hat trick performance over Michigan State on Oct. 4.  DiBernardo claimed the Big Ten co-offensive POTW honor again for her five point winning effort in the 3-2 OT win at No. 24 Michigan, which also landed her on the CS360 Primetime Performers list for week 11. Furthermore, Shayla Mutz was recognized as Chicagoland Soccer News player of the week for her two-goal performance in the 4-1 win over Nebraska. For her dominant PK shootout performance, in which she saved the first two kicks from Mizzou, Steph Panozzo was selected as the Chicagoland Soccer News player of the week along with making the CollegeSoccer360 primetime performer list. 

On Halloween, the Big Ten announced their post-season awards as DiBernardo claimed her third career First Team All-Big Ten award. In addition, Nicole Breece was acknowledged for her productive season, being named to the All-Big Ten Freshmen Team. Meanwhile, junior Allie Osoba was named Sportsmanship Award Honoree. Furthermore, DiBernardo and Shayla Mutz were named to the Big Ten All Tournament Team.

DiBernardo also claimed several awards at the conclusion of the 2012 season. The junior was selected as a NSCAA All-American (Third Team), a SoccerNewsNet College Boot candidate, TopDrawerSoccer Second-Team All-Upperclassmen, NSCAA First-Team All-Great Lakes Region and a U.S. Soccer Young Athlete of the Year finalist.  


After leading the team in points, goals, and shots, junior Vanessa DiBernardo continued to inch closer to the top spots in the Illinois history book in several categories. The Naperville native's 87 career points now ranks third on the all-time list behind Emily Brown (109) and leader Tara Hurless (115). DiBernardo's 36 career goals also ranks third, once again behind the duo of Brown (46) and Hurless (47). In addition, DiBernardo's two game-winners this season brings her career total to 14, two behind all-time leader Hurless (16). Vanessa is also chasing Hurless (325) in career shots, as the junior holds the two spot with 268. However, DiBernardo did take the top spot with her 129 career shots-on-goal, surpassing Hurless' 111. 

Furthermore, the junior staked her claim as the best offensive player in Illinois history in Big Ten play-only. Her 20 career conference goals and 50 career conference points both rank first all-time. DiBernardo also closed the gap of conference career assists to two as she will begin the 2013 season with 10, behind Eva Strickland's and Hollie Schurr's 12. 


Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo produced a fantastic senior season in which she attained top Big Ten and National rankings while staking her claim to the Illinois record book. Panozzo's 4.83 saves per game ranked first amongst all goalkeepers in the Big Ten. In addition, Panozzo ranked ninth in all of Division-I in minutes played, compiling over 2,164 in goal. 

This season, Panozzo recorded a career best 111 saves, which also ranked as the 30th most in the nation. Furthermore, Panozzo's 111 saves tied current assistant coach Leisha Alcia, for the most saves in a season by an Illinois goalkeeper. Finally, Panozzo's legacy leaves her ranked fifth all-time in career saves with 194, behind Lindsey Carstens (200), Amy Bessette (211), Alexandra Kapicka (220) and leader Leisha Alcia (368). 


The Orange and Blue finished first in the Big Ten in total number of shots in conference play with 223. Overall, the Illini have accomplished an impressive 365 shots, ranking third in the Big Ten. In conjunction, the 2012 Illini were a tough team to beat when they outshot their opponent, going 8-1-2 on the year in that instance.  

Individually, Vanessa DiBernardo broke the school record when she attempted 11 shots in the 1-0 win over Iowa in Champaign. In addition, her 5.56 shots per game over the course of the season ranked first in the Big Ten and first in the Illinois record book. The junior also ranked first amongst all players in Big Ten play in total shots (69) and shots per game (6.27). Freshman Nicole Breece joined in on the action as well when she finished ranked No. 10 in conference competition in shots per game with 3.44.


Three has proven to be the magic winning number for the Illini over the course of the program's history. The Orange and Blue have won their past 77 games when netting three or more goals, dating back to the 1999 season. Illinois has added four this season with a 3-1 win over Milwaukee, 3-2 win over Michigan State, a 4-1 win vs Nebraska and a 3-2 OT win over No. 24 Michigan. The number three also stands for the number of come from behind victories the Illinois squad has rallied to claim this season. 

The number two has also been kind to the Illini as well. The squad went 5-1-1 when they scored at least two goals. Also, when Panozzo and the defensive-unit allowed fewer than two goals, Illinois produced a 8-2-3 record. 

Finally, the number one.  When the Illini were the first to score in a game, the Orange and Blue achieved a 7-3-1 record. Also, under the pressure of one goal games this season, Illinois finished 8-5-2. 

Other notable records from 2012 include: 5-2-1 when leading at half, 6-3-1 during night games and 6-2-0 at home. Thus, the Illini are now 99-27-1 overall at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium, good for a .783 winning percentage. 


Once again under the tutelage of Coach Rayfield, the Illini successfully made the fields in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament. First, Illinois reached the Big Ten Tournament Championship game for the second straight year and fifth overall. The Illini's .586 winning percentage in the BTT ranks third amongst all Big Ten schools. 

As for the NCAA Tournament, Rayfield's Illini reached the Big Dance for the third straight year in their overall 11th appearance. After bowing out in the second round to eventual champion North Carolina, Illinois is now 10-11-2 all-time in the Tournament. 

Finally, the Orange and Blue encountered two penalty-kick shootouts this past post-season winning both: 3-2 against Minnesota and 3-0 vs. Missouri. The Illini are 5-1 all-time in PK shootouts and have not lost one since 2008 in a BTT first round exit against Michigan State.  


The Orange and Blue scored 31 total goals in 2012 and they certainly spread the wealth as 11 different players found the back of the net. Vanessa DiBernardo led the pack with eight goals. The junior won Big Ten offensive player of the week twice in October; first for her game-winning hat-trick performance over Michigan State on Oct. 4, and then for her two goal effort in the 3-2 OT win over Michigan that included the game-winning penalty kick.

The Illinois offense was injected with youth in freshmen Nicole Breece and Taylore Peterson, as they made an immediate impact. The duo combined for six goals, four game-winners, and a clutch BTT PK. On the opposite side of the spectrum were seniors Nicole Denenberg, Marissa Holden, Niki Read and Shayla Mutz. Denenberg and Holden accumulated two goals each while Mutz and Read came alive on Senior Day; Shayla netted her second and third goals of the year while Read produced her first. Read then continued her hot streak by scoring in the next two games against Michigan and Minnesota before concluding her career with a goal against National Champion North Carolina. Allie Osoba recorded three total strikes on the year, with two coming at clutch teams in post-season tournament play. Finally, rounding out the list with one goal each are Kassidy Brown, Amy Feher and Aliina Weykamp.


The Orange and Blue received significant time on the pitch from true freshmen Nicole Breece, Tailor Smith, Taylore Peterson, Amy Feher and Reagan Robishaw along with redshirt freshmen Aliina Weykamp. Breece produced a stellar debut season as she was named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team. Breece played the most minutes out of the young group, 1,637 to be exact, and recorded the following: second on the team in points (11) and goals (4) and third in assists (3) and shots (54). Taylore Peterson started in 19 of 21 games played and racked up 1,562 minutes in the midfield. Both of Peterson's goals on the year were game-winners against Milwaukee and Ohio State. Tailor Smith started all seven non-conference games on the defensive line where the unit posted two shutouts and limited three Top-20 opponents to a total of four goals. Amy Feher saw action in 17 games this season, starting in nine, as she won over a starting defensive role late in the year. Feher's best game came at Indiana where she achieved a career high three points on a goal and an assist. Robishaw also saw limited time in her first year, playing in 10 games for a total of 144 minutes, in which she struck one shot on goal in three total shots. Finally, Weykamp returned after a season ending injury a year ago and played in all 23 games in a defensive midfield role. Weykamp's highlight came against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals when she started the Illini rally by scoring the first goal.