CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois women’s soccer team played its first and last match of the 2013 Big Ten tournament on Wednesday.
Early next week, the Illini will learn whether it also was their last match of the season or just a late stumble on the path into the NCAA tournament.
“We’re certainly on the bubble,” UI coach Janet Rayfield said following a 5-3 loss to Indiana. “And we want every team that’s supposed to win their conference tournament to win it now so that bubble doesn’t shrink.”
Illinois (10-8-2) has reached the NCAA tournament every season since 2010, spanning the careers of the current senior class. Tthe NCAA announces the 64-team bracket at 3:30 p.m. Monday.
“I think overall that this conference is stronger than it’s been in the past, so it would have maybe more numbers (of teams selected),” redshirt junior Jannelle Flaws said. “We did finish fifth, so hopefully that’s an advantage for us.”
Having Vanessa DiBernardo back on the field should also help Illinois’ cause to be included, Rayfield said. The two-time All-American — who suffered a knee sprain Sept. 27 and recently returned to very limited action — logged 64 minutes Wednesday night, producing a goal and an assist.
‘I think we proved tonight that Vanesssa’s back on the field and she helps us,” Rayfield said. “I hope for both of our sakes we get another opportunity to see her on the field. I hope for the people in college soccer that they get another opportunity to see her on the field because she was amazing tonight.”