The Illinois Fighting Illini will open up their 2013-2014 season today in South Bend as they get set to face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish come into today’s game as the #10 team in the nation. This season will be their first as a member of the ACC (moved from the Big East). They also return 10 starters and 20 veterans from last season’s team.
Two of the veterans returning for ND in 2013 are forwards Crystal Thomas and Lauren Bohaboy. Thomas and Bohaboy led the team offensively last season. Thomas had ten goals and 22 points in 2012 while Bohaboy racked up seven goals, four assists, and eighteen points.
Along with Thomas and Bohaboy, ND will actually have sophomore Cari Roccaro and senior Mandy Laddish for their 2013 season. This is because both Roccaro and Laddish missed last year’s season opener because they were playing for their country at the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan.
In just sixteen games last season, Roccaro recorded six goals and thirteen points for the Fighting Irish.
According to und.com, Roccaro had this to say about how it felt coming back to ND after playing in Japan.
“When I got back from Japan, it was like starting from scratch and I really didn’t have any established friendships or relationships with anyone. It takes time to create that kind of bond and even though Mandy and I had that connection, I didn’t have it with the rest of the team in the beginning, and it took a while right in the middle of last year to get that going.”
This will be 5th meeting between the Fighting Illini and the Fighting Irish. Illinois leads the series 4-0.
History will be on the side of the Fighting Illini, but that doesn’t mean this is a sure win for them. This is because Illinois has won their last five season openers, and is 12-4 all-time in the first game of the season.
For Illinois, all eyes will be on their senior leader Vanessa DiBernardo. This offseason, she was named a preseason All-American by Soccer America.
She also was selected to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and picked as a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award along with being ranked as the No. 3 upperclassman by Top Drawer Soccer.
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