CHICAGO, Ill. (UI Release) - On November 26, U.S. Soccer announced the opening of polls for the 2012 Young Female Athlete of the Year Award, with University of Illinois product Vanessa DiBernardo making the prestigious list. DiBernardo is one of five finalists this year which includes goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Crystall Dunn, defender Julie Johnston and forward Kealia Ohai. The U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year Award is one of the most prestigious awards in the sport, as the young athlete honor dates back to 1998.
DiBernardo was a strong and essential force in the center midfield for the U-20 U.S. Women's National Team while playing in Japan for the U-20 World Cup. The Naperville native started in all six games, playing all but 30 minutes of the tournament. DiBernardo was one of five Americans to produce a goal in the World Cup, in which her bending strike from an impressive 25 yards out in the win over Korea was nominated for best goal of the tournament.
All together, Vanessa played in 18 international matches for the U20's in 2012, scoring two more goals in World Cup qualifying, as she wrapped her U20 career with 20 caps.
After the World Cup, DiBernardo returned to the Fighting Illini where she led the squad with eight goals and five assists through 16 matches. DiBernardo earned Big Ten offensive player of the week twice and received her third consecutive All-Big Ten First Team honor. She helped spearhead the Orange and Blue to a second place finish in the Big Ten Tournament, which featured a comeback against Minnesota trailing two goals and down a player and an upset over No. 3 nationally ranked Penn State. The Illini made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to College Cup participant North Carolina.
Online votes for the Athlete of the Year award is equivalent to 50% of the total votes. As in years past, the other 50% will be represented by votes compiled from members of the national media and U.S. representatives (from National Team coaches to the National Board of Directors). The winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 3.