Soccer Takes on Nationally Ranked Illini

by Will Stafford (@WillStaffordLSU)
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Soccer Takes on Nationally Ranked Illini

BATON ROUGE – For the fifth time in seven matches this season, the LSU soccer team will go on the road to face a nationally-ranked opponent as it travels to Big 10 country on Friday night to battle with No. 21-ranked Illinois in a match set to kick off at 7 p.m. CDT at the Illinois Soccer Stadium in Champaign.

The Tigers (2-3-1) will meet the Fighting Illini (5-1-0) on the pitch for the first time in program history as Friday’s match marks just the third game all-time against an opponent from the Big 10 Conference.

LSU is 1-1 in two matches all-time against Big 10 competition, and a perfect 1-0 in five seasons under the direction of head coach Brian Lee with its 2-0 shutout of Northwestern during the 2008 season.

The Tigers enter the match unbeaten in their last two matches, including an impressive 0-0 draw against a No. 10-ranked BYU squad in Provo, Utah, on Sept. 9 and a 1-0 shutout of in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette in Baton Rouge on Sunday afternoon at the LSU Soccer Complex. With its win Sunday, LSU is now unbeaten in its last 11 matches on its home turf at the LSU Soccer Complex.

Illinois has proven to be one of the premier teams in the NCAA to this point in the season as it has earned a victory in five of six matches en route to receiving a No. 21 national ranking in the Soccer America Top 25 poll released Monday. The Fighting Illini are a perfect 2-0 at home during the 2010 season.

Under head coach Janet Rayfield, Illinois has built one of the elite programs in the Big 10 while earning an NCAA Tournament berth in six of the past seven seasons, including three trips to at least the Sweet 16.

“We have another opportunity to compete against one of the best teams in the country as we continue our preparation for the start of SEC play next weekend,” Lee said. “Illinois has an outstanding team again this season and will provide a great challenge to our young team on Friday night.”

The Fighting Illini have been led this season by the play of freshman midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo who is the team’s leading scorer with five goals and 11 points in six matches. In fact, DiBernardo is the Big 10 Co-Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week this week. She has shown All-America form to this point of the season as she is already a two-time Big 10 Freshman of the Week.

While Illinois boasts the reigning Big 10 Co-Offensive Player of the Week in DiBernardo, the Tigers play with the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week in junior All-American candidate Allysha Chapman. A native of Courtice, Ontario, Canada, Chapman has led a resurgent LSU back line that has held opposing teams without a goal and just eight shots on goal in the last 222:18 of game action.

Fans have the opportunity to watch the match live by subscription only as it features a live stream through the Big 10 Student U website from the Big Ten Network at http://video.bigtennetwork.com. In addition, it is available on a delayed radio broadcast at 10 p.m. CDT on WDWS 1400 AM.

The Tigers will wrap up the non-conference season on Sunday afternoon as they return home to battle the McNeese State Cowgirls in a match scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at the LSU Soccer Complex.

Sunday’s match against McNeese State will be a “Student Point Match” as all LSU students receive a free admission with their LSU Student ID. They will also be awarded coveted priority points needed to receive such items as LSU football tickets, which include road games and bowl games. Not only that, but the first 500 fans through the gate will receive a free Koozie featuring the LSU soccer crest.

Fans are also reminded that LSU’s SEC home opener is only two weeks away as the team welcomes SEC West rival Alabama to Baton Rouge on Friday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for just $1.