Welcome Back, Vanessa!
The Illini All-American wasted no time making her presence felt in the Big Ten opener.
Illini Week in Review
Just one match for Illinois last week, but it was the Big Ten opener against the previously unbeaten Iowa Hawkeyes. For the second straight year, Iowa came into this conference opening matchup unbeaten and untied, and like last year, the Illini gave the Hawkeyes their first blemish. Last year, it was a 2-2 tie in Iowa City. In 2012, it was a 2-1 loss for the Hawkeyes in Champaign. In her first match since winning gold at the U-20 World Cup, Vanessa DiBernardo notched her first goal of the season, on her first shot of 2012. The Illini's 1-0 lead wouldn't last too long, as Alex Melin scored with a header off a free kick in the 23rd minute.
The Illini had a chance to get back on top in the 29th minute, when always active freshman Nicole Breece drew a foul in the box for a penalty kick opportunity. But, Hawkeye goalkeeper Meg Goodson guessed right on the attempt by DiBernardo and made a diving save. It didn't take long for the Illini to jump back on top, as Breece headed home a Megan Pawloski flip throw about a minute later for the final 2-1 score.
Illinois notched a season-high 28 shots, to Iowa's 13 attempts, with eleven of the Illini shots coming from DiBernardo. Goalkeeper Steph Panozzo made five saves in net for the orange and blue. The Illini improved to 4-3-1 overall, and are a perfect 4-0-0 at home.
Big Ten Week in Review
Nebraska 2 Northwestern 0
Michigan 3 Indiana 0
Illinois 2 Iowa 1
Michigan State 2 Purdue 1 OT
Ohio State 2 Minnesota 1 OT
Penn State 2 Wisconsin 1
Nebraska 1 Northern Colorado 1
Northwestern 1 Oakland 1
Team of the Week: Ohio State. Don't look now, but the Buckeyes are on a roll. After dropping their first two non-conference games on the road, OSU has raced to six straight wins, including a pair of 1-0 wins over Maryland and Missouri. The only caveat: all six of those games were at home.
Team of the Weak: Northwestern. After what had been a pretty good non-conference season for the Wildcats, including a win at Kansas and a tie vs. Colorado, they stumbled in the Big Ten opener at home vs. Nebraska, and followed that up with a tie at the Horizon league's Oakland. Their task doesn't get any easier this week with Penn State and Ohio State coming to Evanston.
To the Polls
This week's NSCAA Top 25 Coaches Poll shows Penn State unchanged at #11, with Wisconsin falling just one spot to #14 this week. Michigan and Ohio State are receiving votes.
The NSCAA Great Lakes regional rankings don't have many surprises, with Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State as the top four. Illinois checks in at #8 this week with a great chance to move up with a win or two this weekend.
In the Top Drawer Tournament 64, there's a big gap between Penn State (#9) and everyone else. Wisconsin is next at #29, followed by Illinois (#34), Iowa (#35), Michigan State (#39) and Ohio State (#43).
Ohio State made a big jump into the Soccer America Top 25 this week, entering the poll at #16. Penn State moves up one spot to #9, while Wisconsin falls seven slots to #21.
The same three Big Ten teams are in this week's Our Game Magazine Top 25, with Penn State unchanged at #6, Ohio State entering the poll at #22 and Wisconsin falling two spots to #24.
Finally, in this week's Soccer Times Top 25 (a.k.a. the small sample size poll), Penn State moves up to a tie for 9th, with Wisconsin falling a pair of spots to #17. Michigan State, Iowa and Ohio State all received votes.
What's on Tap
Getting a late start on picks this year, with a family wedding keeping me from wading into the fray in the Big Ten's opening weekend. Let's see if I can get off to a good start this season, after finishing last year with a 104-40-8 record in my picks last season. Away we go:
Ohio State at Illinois. This should be a good one, as it usually is between these teams. The Illini went 1-0-1 against the Buckeyes last season, winning in Columbus and advancing via penalty kicks in the Big Ten Tournament (officially a tie). With home teams going 5-1 last weekend, that's which way I'll go here.
Indiana at Iowa. Indiana opened with a poor performance at Michigan, while the Hawkeyes looked pretty good in defeat in Champaign. The Hawkeyes should get a few goals against the shaky Hoosier defense.
Penn State at Northwestern. With Maya Hayes and Taylor Schram back in the fold, it will be a tall order for the Wildcats to slow the Nittany Lions down on the quick surface in Evanston.
Michigan at Minnesota. Along with the OSU-Illinois game, this should be the best matchup of the night. The Wolverines are also back to full strength with the U-20 World Cup coming to a close, while the Gophers have the always dangerous Taylor Uhl. Gophers in a close one in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Michigan State at Wisconsin. Despite losing several players in the offseason, it's been a very good start to the season for Paula Wilkins' squad. MSU has feasted on a weak schedule up to this point. I have a feeling they'll leave Madison still hungry tonight.
Purdue at Nebraska. I really have no idea about this one. The Cornhuskers still have offensive firepower, but can be shaky on defense. They've been better lately, allowing two goals in their last four games, so I'll go with them at home against Purdue.
Penn State at Illinois. Last season's Illini victory in the Big Ten Tournament Final was just their third ever against the Nittany Lions, with two of those coming in the Big Ten Tourney. Illinois is a little banged up and inexperienced on the back line, which could spell trouble against Hayes and company.
Ohio State at Northwestern. The Wildcats usually spring an upset against someone at home during the Big Ten season. I'll pick the Buckeyes, but a Wildcat win here wouldn't shock me.
Michigan State at Minnesota. The feast probably ends on Friday night for the Spartans, but I don't expect them to get much better treatment in Minneapolis.
Purdue at Iowa. Once again, I think the Hawkeyes have too much firepower at home against the Boilermakers.
Indiana at Nebraska. The Hoosiers do have some firepower on offense, so a high-scoring game here wouldn't surprise me.
Michigan at Wisconsin. Probably the game of the day in the conference. Waiting to see if the Wolverines can win a big one on the road before getting too high on them.
On the Air
We'll have the Illinois-Penn State game on Sunday, but tape delayed. The game kicks at noon, but because of our Illinois Volleyball coverage, it won't hit the airwaves until at least 2:30pm central time.
Thanks for listening.