National Women's Soccer League

College Spotlight: Vanessa DiBernardo

Like father like son? Try like father, like daughter.

Growing up with a father who is a former United States international (1979-1985) and a Hermann Trophy winner (1978) can be intimidating to some, but Vanessa DiBernardo is looking to rival her father’s success.

The 21-year-old rising midfielder became a soccer sensation upon entering Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Ill. during her freshman season.

Under Julie Bergstrom, who has coached the program since the 2000-01 season, DiBernardo helped the team to three state championship wins and two national championship wins in just four years.

“I think that Vanessa has been so much fun to watch,” Bergstrom said about the 2010 Gatorade Illinois Girls Soccer Player of the Year. “There’s a big difference between her mental side as a freshman to being a lone captain and leading the team as a senior to a state championship.”

DiBernardo, who led her team to an overall record of 97-5-6—in all competitions—during her four years at Waubonsie Valley opted to take the next step of her career at the University of Illinois under head coach Janet Rayfield.

In her four years for the Fighting Illini, DiBernardo racked up 43 goals and 22 assists in 6,048 minutes on the field and didn’t earn a single yellow or red card.

Between her sophomore and junior years at U of I, DiBernardo earned an integral spot on former U.S. Under-20 head coach Steve Swanson’s roster for the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.

“She has a tremendous engine,” Swanson told U.S. Soccer. “She can get up and down the field, and she’s a workhorse for our team.”

DiBernardo started all six World Cup matches for the championship-winning team—playing four in full—and scored an important first goal in the United States’ 2-1 quarterfinal win over Korea DPR.

Arguably the most important call of DiBernardo’s career came in late August, 2013, when U.S. women’s national team head coach Tom Sermanni called the midfielder in—to replace the injured Megan Rapinoe—prior to the team’s Sept. 3 match against Mexico.

“The easiest way to describe [Vanessa’s call-up] is if you have some dream you’ve had since you were a kid and someone calls you on the phone and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to make your dream come true,’” Rayfield said, immediately after DiBernardo’s call-up was announced.

Despite the call-up, DiBernardo was one of the team’s only unused substitutes in the match—the other being forward Alex Morgan.

More recently, Swanson (who was recently appointed as the head coach of the U-23 team) called DiBernardo in for his 24-player Dec. training camp in Sunrise, Fla., which included four National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) professionals.

With the senior entered into next Friday’s NWSL College Draft, she hopes to emulate her father’s success as a professional.

“He’s the most important role model in my career,” she said. “He has certainly set a high bar with soccer success and I want to follow him if I can.”


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