Off and Running
The Illinois soccer team wasted no time showing its goal-scoring ability in 2011
Illini Week in Review
The Fighting Illini were certainly favored to win their first two games of the season, at home vs. Gonzaga and Toledo, but I'm not sure many expected to see the Illini notch ten goals in the first weekend. Sophomore Vanessa DiBernardo scored two goals in each of the first two contests, which Illinois won by identical 5-1 scores. DiBernardo was rewarded for her efforts by the Big Ten by being named Offensive Player of the Week, and also by Top Drawer Soccer in their Team of the Week for week one.
The Gonzaga game was notable for the return of former Illini manager and assistant coach Billy Barmes to Champaign-Urbana. Barmes is in his first year as an assistant to Amy Edwards in Spokane, and he exchanged hugs with most of the Illini players and coaches at the conclusion of the game. The score was just 1-0 in favor of the Illini at the half, despite Illinois outshooting the Bulldogs 18-4 in the period. The Illini were much more efficient in the second period, notching four goals on just 13 shots. Marissa Mykines notched one goal and two assists, Niki Read had a goal and an assist, and Julie Ewing slotted home the final goal of the night.
Sunday's contest against Toledo saw Illinois play most of the contest with a one-player advantage after Rockets keeper Vicki Traven received a red card for bringing down Mykines just outside the box. Illinois took advantage shortly thereafter, as Julie Ewing collected her second goal of the year when Traven's replacement, Ashley Ross, couldn't cleanly handle a crossing pass from the left flank. The Rockets wouldn't go away just yet though, as they tied the score in the 31st minute on a header from Nicole Gyurgyuk. The Illini went into the half with a 2-1 lead after DiBernardo put away a free kick from 20 yards out in the 39th minute. It was all Illinois in the second half, as the Illini added goals from Mykines, DiBernardo and walk-on Allie Osoba, who collected her first career goal in the 88th minute to close out the scoring.
Big Ten Week in Review
Illinois 5 Gonzaga 1
Illinois 5 Toledo 1
Team of the Week: Illinois showed that they'll be a very dangerous attacking team this season by scoring ten goals in their first two games this season. Yes, Vanessa DiBernardo had four of them, but seniors Marissa Mykines and Julie Ewing each had a pair of goals this weekend, showing that this isn't a one-player attack.
Team of the Weak: The Michigan Wolverines were an NCAA team a season ago, but didn't play like it on opening night, dropping a 1-0 decision to Akron. The Zips are known for soccer on the men's side, but their women's team has never made an NCAA Tournament appearance. Michigan did rebound to win on Sunday against an overmatched Oakland side.
To the Polls
Illinois received some attention nationally in the preseason, as they were ranked #24 in the NSCAA preseason Top 25, and #35 in the Top Drawer Soccer Preseason 64. As you might expect, the Illini are garnering more attention this week after their offensive explosion in week one.
The Illini move up five spots this week in the NSCAA Top 25 to #19. Ohio State is the only other Big Ten team in this poll, as the Buckeyes move up one place to #7. Minnesota is the top "receiving votes" team this week, just five points behind #25 Memphis.
Meanwhile, in the aforementioned Top Drawer Tournament 64 rankings, Illinois moves up three spots this week to #32. Other Big Ten teams are Ohio State (#10), Penn State (#28), Minnesota (#29), Michigan (#38) and Wisconsin (#39).
The Illini enter the Soccer America Top 25 for the first time this season, coming in at #22 this week. Ohio State is also the only other Big Ten team in this poll, as the Buckeyes are ranked #9 this week.
In the Soccer Times Top 25 coaches poll, Illinois sneaks in at #25 in the latest poll. They have familiar company from the conference, with Ohio State ranked #12. Minnesota is receiving votes.
It seems that almost every year, a new poll of some sort pops up. If there's a new one that I've missed, just send me an e-mail.
What's on Tap
The Illini hit the road for a pair of games this weekend, as they'll face Ball State on Friday afternoon, before heading down to Louisville for a Sunday afternoon contest. Illinois will be favored in both games, but Louisville should provide the toughest test so far this season. The Cardinals return 8 starters from last year's squad that finished 10-9-0. We'll see if the powerful attack we saw in Champaign last week carries over on the road.
There was just too much going on last week for me to make predictions in week one. We'll get those fired up this week. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, I'll pick a winner in every game involving a Big Ten team. Last year was a pretty good one for the picks, as I went 82-30-18. My winner is listed in bold. I don't pick ties. Here we go:
Nebraska at Denver. This should be a pretty good matchup. The Pioneers are a solid program, and Nebraska has some firepower. If this were in Lincoln, I'd probably lean the other way.
Illinois at Ball State. The Illini took care of the Cardinals last season in Champaign and should to it again in Muncie.
Ohio State at Missouri. Mizzou is coming off a bit of a down season. A win here would indicate they may be ready to rebound in 2011.
Western Illinois at Iowa. The Hawkeyes shouldn't have much a problem here.
Washington at Wisconsin. Should be a good one in Madison. I'll take the home team, but wouldn't be too surprised with a tie or loss for the Badgers.
Minnesota at San Diego State. You never know how a squad will handle a trip to the west coast, but the Gophers should be able to get the win here.
Oregon State at Purdue. The Boilers need to show a lot of improvement from their loss at West Virginia last week to have a chance here.
Indiana at South Florida. Hmmm...South Florida was a solid side in 2010, Indiana was not. But USF gave up five goals to Central Florida in their opener, and the Hoosiers appear to have some firepower. With no confidence whatsoever, I'll go with the home team.
DePaul vs. Michigan State (in Ann Arbor). DePaul doesn't have Sarah Hagen, the Milwaukee forward who gave Sparty fits in their opener. I'll go with MSU here.
Duquesne at Michigan. It wasn't a great start for the Wolverines in week one, but they should have enough to get by the Dukes.
Cincinnati at Northwestern. NU showed they've still got a very solid defense in the opener against Marquette. The Bearcats are definitely a step below Marquette right now.
West Virginia at Penn State. This has been a very entertaining series between two of the better programs in the steel belt. A trip to Stanford was a very tough way to start the season, but I'll go with PSU at home.
Illinois at Louisville. Should be the toughest test so far for the Illini, but look for them to improve to 4-0.
Richmond at Penn State. The Spiders are off to a tough start and PSU looks to keep it that way.
Wright State at Ohio State. Wright State has been one of the better programs in the Horizon League, but winning in Columbus will be a tall order.
DePaul at Michigan. The Blue Demons are trying to avoid an 0-3 mark against Big Ten teams so far this season.
Duquesne vs. Michigan State (in Ann Arbor). Heyboer and Stander will have too much firepower for the Dukes.
Oakland at Indiana. It's a quick turnaround for IU from Florida on Friday night to Bloomington on Sunday, but they should have enough to beat Oakland.
Purdue at Missouri. The Tigers will get a split against Big Ten foes this weekend.
Dayton at Northwestern. The Flyers have been one of the better A-10 programs for the last four years. A good test for the Wildcats at home.
Green Bay at Wisconsin. Green Bay has really struggled the last few seasons, and started off this season with a loss to Drake on opening weekend.
Minnesota at UCSB. UCSB will be coming off a really tough game vs. Santa Clara on Friday, so I'll take the Gophers.
On the Air
Our next radio broadcast of Illini soccer will be on Friday 9/2 when USC comes to Champaign in a rematch of last year's first-round NCAA Tournament matchup, won by the Trojans. The broadcast will air on tape delay immediately following Illinois Volleyball at approximately 9pm. Thanks for reading.