Senior Vanessa DiBernardo was named to the conference watch list for the third year in a row, while the Illini were picked to finish third in the Big Ten.
Aug 14, 2013
PARK RIDGE, Ill. - The Big Ten Conference released its women's soccer preseason coaches' poll on Wednesday, with Illinois picked third out of 12 teams. The Illini sit behind No. 1 Penn State, the 2012 national runner-up, and No. 2 Michigan in the initial poll. Seniors Vanessa DiBernardo and Kassidy Brown and sophomore Nicole Breece were named as Preseason Players to Watch in the conference.
The Illini also were among the Top 30 teams in the country in multiple preseason rankings released on Tuesday. In the NSCAA/Continental Tire national preseason poll, Illinois received votes, placing them just outside the Top 25 at 28th overall. In the Top Drawer Soccer rankings, the Illini checked in at No. 17, while BennettRank's computer poll placed the Orange and Blue at No. 25.
Illinois, which reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2012, returns seven starters from its squad that posted an overall record of 10-9-4. The Illini tied for fourth in the Big Ten and reached the championship match of the Big Ten Tournament last season.
DiBernardo was named to the conference watch list for the third year in a row. The Naperville, Ill., native is a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection along with being selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010 and Big Ten Midfielder of the Year in 2011. A two-time NSCAA All-American, she led the Illini in goals (8), points (21) and shots (89) in 2012. Top Drawer Soccer recently ranked her as the top player in the Big Ten and No. 3 overall player in the country heading into the 2013 season.
Brown earned preseason recognition on the conference watch list for the second consecutive season. The Lake Zurich, Ill., native started all 23 games and posted over 2,000 minutes on defense last season. She scored her first collegiate goal on a penalty kick, which was the game-winner against Western Michigan, and recorded a pair of assists on the year.
Breece nabbed a spot on the conference watch list for the first time following a solid rookie season in which she was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. The St. Louis, Mo., native ranked second on the Illini in points (11) and goals (4) and third in assists (3) and shots (54) in 2012.
The Illini continue their preseason training this week with an exhibition contest against No. 8 Virginia in Maple City, Mich., on Friday, Aug. 16. The Orange and Blue will begin the 2013 season on the road at No. 10 Notre Dame on Aug. 23 at 4:30 p.m. and at Louisville on Aug. 25 at noon. Illinois will host its home opener at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium against College of Charleston on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.
Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Penn State
4. Ohio State
10. Michigan State