DiBernardo earns All-Big Ten nod

PARK RIDGE, Ill. - The Big Ten conference announced its 2012 women's soccer All-Big Ten teams and individual award winners on Wednesday, Oct. 31, with three Fighting Illini earning honors. 

Junior Vanessa DiBernardo was named First Team All-Big Ten, claiming one of three midfielder spots along with Ohio State's Danica Wu and Penn State's Christine Nairn. DiBernardo has successfully been awarded this honor for three consecutive years. In addition, Vanessa can add the acknowledgment to her Big Ten Freshmen of the Year award in 2010 and Big Ten Midfielder of the Year award from 2011. 

DiBernardo joined the Illini when conference play started on Sept. 16 against Iowa. The junior, along with Coach Rayfield, were with the U-20 U.S. Women's National Team as they won the gold medal in the U-20 World Cup in Japan. Since rejoining the squad, Vanessa has not missed a step. She has won two Big Ten offensive player of the week awards after scoring a game-winning hat-trick against Michigan State and recording five points on two goals and an assist in the team's first ever win in Ann Arbor vs. No. 24 Michigan. 

The Naperville native currently leads the Illini in goals and points with eight and 19 respectively. DiBernardo finished first amongst all Big Ten players in conference play with 69 shots (6.27 per game). In fact, Vanessa set a new Illinois record for most shot attempts taken in a game when she recorded 11 against Iowa. 

Overall, DiBernardo is now third in career goals with 32, behind Emily Brown's 46 and Tara Hurless' 47. Vanessa is third in career points as well with 84. Once again behind Emily Brown (108) and Tara Hurless (115). Finally, the junior is second in career game-winning goals with 14, two behind leader Hurless. DiBernardo will enter Friday's game vs. No. 3 Penn State red hot, for she has tallied at least one point in the previous four games. 

Nicole Breece was recognized for her contributions this season as she was named to the All-Freshman Team. The St. Louis native becomes the 16th ever Illini to pick up the prestigious award, following in the footsteps of teammates Vanessa DiBernardo, Megan Pawloski, Janelle Flaws and Shayla Mutz. Breece is tied for second on the team for points (7) and assists (3) and tied for third in goals (2) and shots (44). The freshman has also tallied one game-winner and leads all freshmen on the team in minutes with 1,291. Finally, Breece finished 10th in conference play amongst all Big Ten schools in shots per game (3.44).

The Big Ten also recognized Sportsmanship Award honorees from each school in the conference. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. These student-athletes must also be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Junior Allie Osoba made the list for the Orange and Blue. The Orland Park native is not only producing solid minutes up top for the Illini this season, but has demonstrated character for the rest of the squad to follow. 

DiBernardo, Breece, Osoba and the rest of the Fighting Illini meet Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semi-finals. The match is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT and can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

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