Illinois spoils Iowa’s undefeated nonconference record

It was deja vu for Illinois, heading into its first conference match against an undefeated Iowa team again this year.

Last season, the Illini traveled to Iowa City to rally from a two-goal deficit and give Iowa its first tie of the season.

This year, the Hawkeyes traveled to the Illinois Soccer Stadium with another undefeated nonconference record of 9-0-0. This time, the Illini came away with a 2-1 victory.

“I know we went to Iowa last year and got a tie out of it,” Illinois head coach Janet Rayfield said. “It sort of left a sour taste in our mouth to start off that way. We’re excited to started off with a win.”

Everything seemed to come together for the Illini, with Rayfield and junior midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo’s partaking in their first game of the season since returning from the U.S. Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.

DiBernardo wasted no time getting adjusted to her collegiate team, scoring a goal in the first three minutes of the game.

Recognizing a gap in Iowa’s defense, she struck the ball into the back of the net to tally the first goal for Illinois and DiBernardo’s first of the 2012 season. Illinois recorded its most shots in a single match so far this season, tallying 28. Of those 28 shots, DiBernardo was responsible for 11.

“They were giving me a lot of time at the top of the box,” DiBernardo said. “I was looking for shots, and I need to get those shots more on frame, but there were some good opportunities, and I think I should put more away than I did.”

Freshman Nicole Breece tallied the game-winning goal toward the end of the first half. The Illini were awarded the ball on the sideline, allowing junior Megan Pawloski to use her flip-throw-in to aid the attack.

Her throw launched the ball high into the air in the middle of the 18-yard box, where Breece flicked the ball with her head into the back of the net.

Breece is also capable of a flip-throw-in and isn’t used to being the one on the receiving end.

“It’s different to be on the other side of it,” Breece said. “I’m usually the one throwing it, but I know what I am usually trying to get them to do, so I knew myself that I needed to get my head on the ball and try and put it away.”

In the second half, the Illini maintained possession over the Hawkeyes and held the score 2-1. Most of the action occurred on Iowa’s defensive half, with Illinois creating chances but having no luck on a third goal.

This was the second multigoal win of the season for Illinois, its first a 3-1 victory against UW-Milwaukee on Labor Day. Illinois will continue Big Ten competition with two home games next weekend against Ohio State and Penn State.

“I think if you look at the Big Ten over the last 10 years even that I’ve been here, every win in the Big Ten really matters,” Rayfield said. “This was an Iowa team that came in extremely confident, 9-0, who hadn’t given up a lot of goals and were scoring a lot of goals. I think this is a really huge win for us. It was a great win for our confidence and certainly just to start the season. We’re excited to start off with a win and now we need to focus on Ohio State coming in on Friday, trying to get a second win.”

Gina can be reached at [email protected]