Series History: The all-time series is tied 1-1 between the Fighting Illini and Fighting Irish. Illinois won the last meeting in 2011, knocking ND out of the NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 opening round victory in Champaign. Notre Dame won the first-ever matchup between the two teams, topping UI 2-0 in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in South Bend.
First Look at the Irish: Notre Dame enters its first season in the ACC, where it was picked to finish fifth in the conference. The Fighting Irish, who are coached by Randy Waldrum, return 10 starters and 20 veterans from last season's team that posted a 16-6-2 record and advanced to the NCAA Championship quarterfinals for the 15th time in program history. Notre Dame also went 8-1-1 in its final BIG EAST campaign, earning a share of the National Division title and reaching the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship.
Game 2 at Louisville on Sunday
Up Next: Illinois will have a travel day on Saturday before taking on Louisville on Sunday at noon CT at Cardinal Park Soccer Stadium. Illinois is 4-0 all-time against Louisville and owns a 15-1 goal advantage in those four contests. Illinois captured a 2-1 overtime victory the last time the two teams met in Louisville in 2011. The Illini earned a 3-0 win in 2010 in Champaign and opened the 2007 NCAA Tournament with a 1-0 overtime victory over the Cardinals. The two teams met for the first time in 1998, with Illinois blanking Louisville, 9-0.
First Look at the Cardinals: Louisville was picked to win the American Athletic Conference and is led by head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes, who begins her 13th season with the Cardinals. Louisville went 10-4-4 and placed third in the National Division of the BIG EAST in 2012 and returns a strong lineup including Preseason Team selections Charlyn Corral (a unanimous selection) and Angelika Uremovich, both seniors. Corral earned First Team All-BIG EAST and NSCAA First Team All-Northeast Region honors last season and led Louisville in scoring with 23 points. Uremovich was a Second Team All-BIG EAST selection in 2012. The Cardinals return nine starters and 97 percent of its goal scoring.
A Look Back at 2012
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-three opponent when they knocked off No. 3 Penn State. The Orange and Blue, who began the year ranked 19th by the NSCAA, 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.
Preseason National & Big Ten Polls
The Illini were ranked among the Top 30 teams in the country in multiple preseason polls. In the NSCAA/Continental Tire national preseason rankings, 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 Soccer America and BennettRank's computer poll both placed the Orange and Blue at No. 25.
In the Big Ten preseason coaches' poll, Illinois was picked to finish 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.
DiBernardo Preseason All-American
Senior Vanessa DiBernardo was named a preseason All-American by Soccer America heading into her final year as an Illini. The two-time All-American is one of three Big Ten players on the list along with Penn State forward Maya Hayes and Michigan forward Nkem Ezurike. The Naperville, Ill., native also was selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and picked as a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award along with being ranked as the No. 3 upperclassman by Top Drawer Soccer.
Climbing the Charts
After leading the team in points, goals and shots in 2012, Vanessa DiBernardo continued to inch closer to the top spots in several categories in the record book. The Naperville native's 87 career points rank third on the all-time list behind Emily Brown (109) and leader Tara Hurless (115). DiBernardo's 36 career goals also rank third, once again behind the duo of Brown (46) and Hurless (47). In addition, DiBernardo's two game-winners last season brought her career total to 14, two behind all-time leader Hurless (16). She also is chasing Hurless (325) in career shots, as the senior holds the No. 2 spot with 268. DiBernardo took over the top spot with her 129 career shots-on-goal, surpassing Hurless' 111.
DiBernardo also has 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.
Illinois on the Big Ten Network
The Big Ten Network announced its fall slate of women's soccer games, with the Illini scheduled to appear on the conference network at least twice during the 2013 regular season. The semifinal and championship matches of the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held in Champaign at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium, also will be televised on BTN.
Illinois' final two road contests of the season will both be broadcast by BTN, while a total of 10 conference regular season matches are slated for BTN. The conference cameras will be on when the Illini face Penn State on Sunday, Oct. 20, and Minnesota on Thursday, Oct. 31. The Big Ten Tournament semifinals are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 8, while the championship match will take place on Nov. 10.
Illinois on the Radio
Five Illinois games are slated to air on WDWS AM 1400 during the 2013 season. Brian Moline and Tim Ditman will broadcast the following games across the air waves: at Louisville (8/25), vs. Illinois State (9/1), vs. Nebraska (9/29), at Indiana (10/6) and vs. Michigan (10/25).