Age: 20

College/Team: University of Illinois Fighting Illini

Achievements: Named Player of the Week by The Big Ten, Top Drawer Soccer and College Sports Madness.

The Big Ten, Top Drawer Soccer and College Sports Madness have all recently dubbed Vanessa DiBernardo, center midfielder for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

women’s soccer team, Player of the Week after she helped her team defeat Michigan State with a come-from-behind hat trick.

This is her third season playing collegiate soccer, and the title is one of many she has earned playing for the Fighting Illini, including Big Ten player of the year for 2011. She also helped carry the U-20 women’s national team to a World Cup victory in Japan this year.

The Chronicle took some penalty shots with DiBernardo and talked about juggling school with time on the field, her proudest moments and the experience of playing for the U-20 women’s national team.

The Chronicle: How does it feel to be named Player of the Week for the Big Ten?

Vanessa DiBernardo: It feels good to be rewarded for my hard work, but I don’t really worry about it too much. I focus on my playing and how I am doing on the field, and it’s just really nice to be rewarded for that.

What was it like playing in the World Cup with the U.S. U-20 team?

It was a lot of fun. It was a really great experience, and I learned so much from playing on that team. We played Germany twice in Germany, and we beat them the first time but the second time we lost. Those were probably my favorite games ever. I’m ineligible for the [U-20] team now, so hopefully I’ll get the call to play for the U-23 team next time around.

Which was your favorite place on the tour?

Tokyo. Spain was really cool, but we didn’t get to sightsee at all. Tokyo was just so different from anything I am used to, and being there for the World Cup was amazing.

Has it been difficult juggling school with soccer?

It was hard at first, but I have been doing it for a few years now. Once I figured out how to manage my time, it got a lot easier. My teachers are all really great and understanding as well, so that has helped me a lot.

What are you most proud of so far this season?

I have only been back for about a month because of the World Cup, so I have only been back for Big Ten play. Getting to see how much the team has grown and improved is really rewarding because when you’re there all of the time, you don’t really get to see that.

What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome this season?

Physically, I have been much more tired than usual. I spent the last few months traveling and playing for the national team, so coming back into this season without a break has caused me to be a little slower than I usually am. But I’m happy and I smile a lot, so I’ll continue to work hard and hopefully play well.

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