Sophomore Megan Pawloski will look to add to her impressive freshman season, where the Belleville, Ill., native tallied 12 points in 19 games as a reserve forward.
Aug. 18, 2011
2011 Illinois Soccer Season Preivew
Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield and the rest of the Illini Soccer squad look to secure the eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in Rayfield’s 10th season at the helm of the program following another successful campaign in 2010.
The Orange and Blue return the majority of their offensive personnel from last season, with the graduation of defensive standouts Danielle Kot and Krystin Miller dictating changes to the backline. However, an experienced core of defensive and middle-of-the-field players will offset the losses and offer the promise of another successful season for Illinois soccer. Illinois will look to employ a fluid player movement system on the field, with student-athletes shifting between positions depending on the opponent and locations on the field depending on game situations as the Illini employ a fast-paced style in 2011.
Read and Mutz, who both started all 19 matches last season, were pivotal in key victories throughout the 2010 slate, combining for six goals and eight assists on the year. Mutz ended the season with four goals, including the game-winner in overtime against Iowa, and two assists. Read added the deciding tallies against No. 17 Ohio State and Northwestern while tying for the team lead with six assists, including game-winning passes against Wright State, Ball State, Cincinnati, Iowa and Michigan State.
Sophomore Megan Pawloski, the second-leading scorer on the Illini in her first season with five goals and two assists, returns for her second year. Pawloski averaged 1.28 points per game during her freshman campaign, coming off the bench in each of Illinois’ 19 contests. In 2010, Pawloski was joined as a substitute at forward by then-sophomore Marissa Holden, who tallied her first collegiate goal against No. 23 Louisville, while Holden’s classmate, Nicole Denenberg, saw time on the attack in all 19 contests, making nine starts on the year. Denenberg tallied her first collegiate goal; the game-winner, against Wright State and finished the season with four points courtesy of the tally against the Raiders and two assists.
Illinois graduates striker Jordan Hilbrands, who started 39 of the 65 games she played for the Orange and Blue during her career. Hilbrands tallied three goals in seven games during 2010, seeing limited action during her senior campaign due to injury. In total, Hilbrands recorded 11 goals and two assists for 24 points over her four seasons.
Redshirt sophomore Jannelle Flaws has recovered from a knee injury suffered at the conclusion of her senior season of high school and will see time at forward, while incoming freshman Megan Green will also serve as an attacking player for the Illini during 2011.
“We will employ certain players like Shayla and Niki in multiple formations and positions and we will have players who stretch defenses and play away from the ball to be an option,” Rayfield said. “We always have to find someone who can stretch the defense and we will put pieces around those players that are fast-moving and hard to track - players like Shayla making runs off the ball and Megan Pawloski playing both rolls, a target to find, run at you and get behind the defense. We have a lot of dangerous personalities in our attacking core and the role of those playing forward each day, the goal scoring piece of that puzzle, is going to be an important one. We are going to create chances, as we are too dangerous, too mobile and too quick not to do so. Players like Megan [Pawloski], Marissa [Holden] and Jannelle [Flaws] will be in the front line with the expectation being they get in the box and on the end line.”
An experienced core of Illini combined with a nucleus of newcomers to produce a strong middle of the pitch for the Orange and Blue in 2010. Despite the loss of Laura Knutson to graduation, the midfield will remain a strength during the upcoming season due to the infusion of new talent combined with the abilities of returning players.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Vanessa DiBernardo produced at an outstanding rate as a center midfielder throughout 2010, earning recognition from the Big Ten Conference, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Top Drawer Soccer and Soccer News Net as a result. DiBernardo led the Big Ten in goals (11) and points (27), while also finishing first in goals per game (0.58) and points per game (1.42) as a starter in each of the Orange and Blue’s matches.
Senior Marissa Mykines returns for her fourth season with the Orange and Blue after finishing tied for first among all Illini in assists (6) during 2010. Mykines used her pure speed and ability as a distributing player to help lead Illinois to its 13-win season, assisting on the game-winner at Yale and the game-tying goal at No. 17 Ohio State.
“It is hard to separate the midfielders and forwards as separate groups among our current attacking players,” Rayfield said. “Our front six or seven, depending on how many we choose to play with, are such a collective unit and are so interchangeable that it is our expectation for that group to be interchangeable and be versatile and keep our movement constant. This will be a short passing team that is going to connect not with 60 yard passes, but three 20 yard passes that happen quickly. That type of ball movement is what we are looking for to make this team successful and that’s going to mean our center midfielders; Vanessa [DiBernardo], Marissa [Mykines], Nicole [Denenberg], Jackie [Guerra] and so many others, so many can play in there, will have to want the ball constantly. I think this will be a huge piece of being able to play that type of style. We have players that can threaten from the midfield, who do not need to rely on forwards to be dangerous. We can have the entire unit playing out of the midfield and have them run at people with the ball.”
The Illini return three defensive players who saw at least 750 minutes on the 2010 Illini backline to offset the losses of four-year starter Danielle Kot and two-year starter Krystin Miller. With an infusion of new talent and position shifting among experienced players added to the presence of seniors Julie Ewing and Jenna Carosio, redshirt sophomore Christina Farrell and sophomore Kassidy Brown, the Orange and Blue defense appears ready to shut down opponents in 2011.
“The biggest change in terms of personnel will be that Jenna [Carosio] will move and play in the back,” Rayfield said. “This is a change we anticipated for at least a year knowing that the change is going to take place. It isn’t a position she hasn’t trained for and that is a positive aspect of the switch. She has stepped in well and we didn’t come into the season unaware of who would be playing on the backline for us. We knew a year ago that when [Danielle] Kot and [Krystin] Miller left, Jenna would be taking their place in the center back. Jenna is a veteran player playing a new position, but one she has been preparing for over the last couple years. She has stepped right in and felt very confident and comfortable. We have put a defense around her that’s very comfortable with their own experience.”
Ewing enters her third year as a starter on defense, while Farrell and Brown combined to fill an outside defensive role in 2010, with Farrell slotting into the starting lineup perfectly following Brown’s season-ending injury at Wisconsin in the 12th game of the 2010 slate.
Senior Caitlin Dombart, junior Kristen Gierman and freshman Mackenzie Taylor, Stephanie Pouse, Green and Weykamp will vie for minutes and look to add depth to the Illinois defense during the upcoming season.
“Kassidy [Brown] had valuable minutes last season before sustaining an injury,” Rayfield said. “Christina Farrell earned valuable minutes and Caitlin Dombart is a senior with previous valuable playing time. We have experienced players and freshman and sophomore classes that are learning behind them, but talented enough to step in and make the defensive unit deep or play should we need them to. Those players are in a great situation in that they are capable of playing this level of soccer but do not have to step in immediately because of an experienced core ahead of them.”
With the graduation of three-year starter and fifth-year senior Alexandra Kapicka, the starting goalkeeper role will become a battle between junior Steph Panozzo, sophomore Lauren Parkin and freshman Lizzi Sanscrainte.
Panozzo is the only one of the three with collegiate-level experience entering 2011, only allowing one goal in 236:29 minutes in net for a 0.38 goals-against average. In 2010, Panozzo earned victories over Loyola-Chicago and Ball State while splitting time in net with Kapicka as the Illini went 4-1 in contests Panozzo saw time during.
“Our goalkeeping situation is similar to our defense with Steph [Panozzo] stepping in as a young college goalkeeper, but she has international experience and she has been here several years and is a experienced goalkeeper,” Rayfield said. “Although her number of minutes or starts in the position may be small, her experience in terms of college soccer is vast, so I think if we can rely on that experience our defense will be solid and that will be important.”
Both Parkin and Sanscrainte sustained success in goal during their scholastic and club-level careers, each earning multiple all-conference, all-section and all-area honors. In addition, Sanscrainte spent two seasons training at the Olympic Development Program Goalkeeper Academy while Parkin was an all-state selection following her senior season.
University of Illinois soccer head coach Janet Rayfield and her staff compiled a challenging fall schedule, including opponents from the Pac-12, Big 12 and BIG EAST in addition to the difficult 11-game Big Ten slate. A rematch with 2010 NCAA Tournament foe USC at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium, as well as home contests with 2010 postseason participants Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan highlight the upcoming season.
“We want to position ourselves with respect to the region and country for any postseason tournament comparisons and selections the committee will be completing,” Rayfield said. “I think you will see a West Coast-heavy non-conference schedule because we wanted to position ourselves relative to the West Coast teams. The Big Ten plays a lot of Midwest and East Coast teams so there are common comparisons there, but the West Coast schedule will give us a national look in terms of where we fit across the country when it comes to NCAA tournament selection time.”
After opening the fall with an exhibition game at Big 12 Conference rival Missouri on August 12, the Illini host former staff member and current Gonzaga assistant coach Billy Barmes and the rest of the Bulldogs on August 19 for the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium opener before Toledo travels to Champaign on August 21. The Orange and Blue follow with consecutive road games at Ball State on August 26 and Louisville on August 28 to complete competition during the first month of the season.
The Illini host Southern California and Colorado as part of the Illini/Boilermaker Cup from Sept. 2-4, facing the Trojans on Friday, Sept. 2 and the Buffaloes on Sunday, Sept. 4. In two season, the Orange and Blue are 3-1 overall in Illini Challenge Cup action, tallying victories over Iowa State and Dayton in 2008, while topping UC Santa Barbara in 2009.
Following the Illini/Boilermaker Cup, the Orange and Blue take to the road for five consecutive contests, the longest regular season stretch away from Champaign in the program’s history. Illinois begins the campaign in Baton Rouge, La., taking part in the LSU Tournament with Pepperdine and Oregon, challenging the Waves on Sept. 9 and Ducks on Sept. 11. Following the trip to LSU, the Illini begin Big Ten competition at Iowa on Sept. 18, before heading to Ohio State for a Sept. 23 contest followed by a game at Penn State to complete the road swing on Sept. 25.
“Another goal is for the schedule to do as much as it can to prepare you for the conference slate to come,” Rayfield said. “The variety of teams you can play in non-conference play and tough competition prepares you for the Big Ten season. We are challenging ourselves at home with nationally-ranked USC as well as Colorado and challenging ourselves on the road with Oregon and Pepperdine at LSU. These are teams you do not know much about and, in the case of Oregon and Pepperdine, are teams at a neutral site much like an NCAA Tournament-like arena. It’s another experience that will be good for us to have, hopefully it challenges us and prepares us – giving us an opportunity to do the things we want to in the NCCA Tournament.”
Illinois continues its season against the Indiana Hoosiers on Sept. 30, playing its first home contest in 26 days in the process. Illinois concludes the back-to-back home game series by hosting Purdue on Oct. 2. After heading to East Lansing, Mich., to face Michigan State on the road for the second consecutive season, the Illini head home for two more games. The Minnesota Gophers will take to the Illinois Soccer Stadium pitch on Oct. 14 before the Orange and Blue and Wisconsin face off in Champaign on Oct. 16.
The Illini conclude the road portion of the regular season with an Oct. 20 game against in-state rival Northwestern before facing Nebraska as a Big Ten opponent for the first time on Oct. 23. Previously, Illinois earned victory in both contests with the Cornhuskers, downing Nebraska, 2-1, during NCAA Tournament competition on Nov. 20, 2004 and again the following season, 1-0, on Sept. 2, 2005. Illinois concludes the regular season with Senior Night against Michigan on Oct. 29. During the Rayfield era, the Orange and Blue are 8-1-0 overall when playing in the final regular season home game at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium.
The Big Ten conference reintroduces the women’s soccer Big Ten Tournament in 2011 after a two-year hiatus, with Northwestern serving as the current host-site. The top-eight regular season finishers earn seeding in the tournament, as the quarterfinal round occurs on Nov. 2, the semifinals follow on Nov. 4 and the Big Ten Tournament Championship unfolds on Nov. 6.
The 2011 NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds take place from Nov. 11-13, while the Sweet Sixteen follows on Nov. 18-20 and the Elite Eight from Nov. 25-27. The 2011 Women’s College Cup, held at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., concludes the season with the Final Four on Dec. 2 before the NCAA Championship on Dec. 4.