Illinois Soccer Enjoys Home Cooking
The Illini get back to .500 in the Big Ten with a pair of home wins.
Illini Week in Review
Illinois did what it needed to do last weekend, get a pair of victories at home against two teams struggling this season: Indiana and Purdue. On Friday night against the Hoosiers, it took the Illini a while to get clicking. Vanessa DiBernardo continued her outstanding season by giving the Illini a 1-0 lead late in the first half, off a nice feed from junior Niki Read. Indiana would tie the score early in the second half on a goal from Kate McCusker, but it was all Illinois after that. The Illini got goals from DiBernardo, Marissa Mykines and Megan Pawloski to pull away for a 4-1 win. With the pair of tallies, DiBernardo increased her goal total to eleven, which matched her season total from 2010.
On Sunday, Purdue came in with a good defensive game plan. Coach Rob Klatte's club did a good job of limiting the Illini's opportunities, especially in the first half. Illinois was able to keep possession of the ball for the majority of play, but was able to get few quality scoring chances. However, the Illini defense was stout as well. Purdue managed only two shots for the entire game, and just one shot on goal, which Steph Panozzo was able to turn away. The difference in the game came when Mykines was tackled in the box by Purdue's Marta Lynch in the 57th minute. The official issued a yellow card to Lynch, and awarded the Illini a penalty kick, which DiBernardo converted for her 12th goal of the season. The Illini defense pitched its first shutout in Big Ten play, and the third of the season, to improve to 2-2-1 in the Big Ten and 8-4-1 overall.
Big Ten Week in Review
Illinois 4 Indiana 1
Illinois 1 Purdue 0
Team of the Week: Michigan. The Wolverines propelled themselves back into the conference title race with a pair of road wins, and they did it with heavy hearts, as their teammate Holly Hein underwent surgery for a cancerous thyroid last week. Good news on all fronts, as Holly is expected to make a full recovery, and her teammates dedicated their performance to her with great results.
Team of the Weak: Nebraska. One of Michigan's victims last weekend, the Huskers showed they're still a very inconsistent team this season. Morgan Marlborough is a great goal scorer, but it looks like she still needs some help in Lincoln.
Update Big Ten Standings (through 10/1)
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Penn State (2). The Nittany Lions erased any doubt that they're once again the team to beat in the Big Ten with wins over Ohio State and Minnesota. They had a bit of a scare on Sunday when midfielder Christine Nairn left with an injury, but she returned for the last few minutes of the game against the Gophers and should be okay going forward.
2. Ohio State (3). It's hard to penalize the Buckeyes for losing at Penn State, especially when they follow it up with a win at Wisconsin. That victory keeps OSU within shouting distance of Penn State. OSU is still struggling a bit on offense, but the defense was good enough on Sunday to get the victory.
3. Michigan (9). The Wolverines get the biggest bump after a pair of road victories at Iowa and Nebraska. If you want to beat Michigan, you'd better figure out how to stop Nkem Ezurike. After a slow start to the season, she is on fire right now for Greg Ryan's squad.
4. Wisconsin (1). Not a good home weekend for the Badgers. They hoped to pick up a couple of wins to remain in first place. Instead, they get only one point for the weekend after tying Minnesota and losing to Ohio State.
5. Iowa (5). We'll keep the Hawkeyes at number five for now. It was important for them to rebound against Michigan State Sunday after dropping a tough 1-0 game to Michigan on Friday night. The win over MSU means...
6. Michigan State (4). Is this too low for MSU? Perhaps, but they've lost to the two teams directly in front of them, so it's hard to put them any higher. An interesting game with Illinois coming up for Sparty on Saturday.
7. Illinois (6). Win two games and drop a spot in the power rankings? We're seeing that there's really little difference in the teams ranked 2-7 in the Big Ten this season. The wins over Purdue and Indiana are nice, but it will take a win at MSU this weekend to move up.
8. Minnesota (8). The Gophers are a bit of an enigma this season. Their results last week weren't bad at all, as they played both Wisconsin and Penn State tough. But, Minnesota is running out of time to start picking up wins.
9. Nebraska (7). Last week was a golden opportunity for the Huskers to move up in the standings a bit with a pair of games at home. What happened was the worst case scenario, dropping both games.
10. Indiana (10). The Hoosiers were fortunate to pick up a 1-0 win at Northwestern, in a game where they were outshot 16-9. They remain a team dangerous enough on offense to spring an occasional upset.
11. Purdue (11). It was a 1-1 weekend for Purdue as well, picking up a win at Northwestern before dropping a 1-0 game against Illinois. If they play with kind of effort I saw on Sunday, they'll pick up another win or two somewhere along the way.
12. Northwestern (12). After dropping two game at home this weekend, the Wildcats have now lost to the teams at 9, 10 and 11 in these power rankings. I'm not sure where wins will come from the rest of the season.
To the Polls
This week's Top Drawer Tournament 64 rankings feature the same seven Big Ten teams, just in a slightly different order. Penn State again leads the way at #16. They're followed by Ohio State (#27), Illinois (#35), Michigan (#37), Wisconsin (#40), Iowa (#42) and Michigan State #43).
Meanwhile, Penn State continues to be the only Big Ten team ranked in the NSCAA Top 25, up six spots to #18. Teams receiving votes are Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio State.
Penn State continues to be second behind Milwaukee in the NSCAA Great Lakes regional poll this week. The Nittany Lions are followed by Iowa (#3), Ohio State (#5), Illinois (#6), Ohio State (#7), Michigan (#8) and Michigan State (#9).
Ohio State joins the Nittany Lions in the Soccer America Top 25 for a second straight week. The Buckeyes move up two spots to #23, while Penn State is up one spot to #18.
Penn State moves up three spots to #20, as the lone Big Ten representative in the Soccer Times Top 25 coaches' poll. Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio State all received votes.
What's on Tap
It's a one-match weekend in the conference. As a result, there are a few Saturday games this week. Last week's picks were not good. The home team let me down in a couple of instances (I'm looking at you, Wisconsin and Nebraska), so I was just 6-5-1 for the weekend. That makes my season total 69-24-7. Let's see if this week's picks fare any better. My choices are in bold.
Wisconsin at Nebraska. This game is critical for Nebraska if they want to revive their at-large NCAA hopes. The Badger defense should be plenty angry after allowing three goals last week.
Illinois at Michigan State. The Illini have had MSU's number, not allowing a goal to the Spartans since 2002. Can the streak continue? Perhaps, but it should be a great battle between two teams with dangerous attacking options.
Northwestern at Michigan. The Wolverines are starting to put things together after a slow start. They should take care of business here.
Minnesota at Iowa. This should be an interesting game, as Minnesota has played most teams close this season but come up short. I'll take the Hawkeyes at home, but a Gopher win wouldn't be shocking.
Penn State at Indiana. The Hoosier defense has struggled has shown a few holes this season, which Penn State will be more than happy to exploit.
Ohio State at Purdue. I'll give Ohio State the nod after they picked up a road win in Madison last week. But I do expect Purdue to circle the wagons with a great effort here.
On the Air
No broadcast this week with the Illini in East Lansing, but we'll be back on the air next week with both of the Illini's home games against Minnesota and Wisconsin. We'll try to catch up with a player or two during the week as they prep for MSU. Thanks for reading.