Naperville native Vanessa DiBernardo was a Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient. The soccer star from the University of Illinois won the award, which recognizes athletic and academic accomplishments. Only 24 of the 8,000-plus Big Ten athletes win the award.
DiBernardo became the highest-drafted player in school history when she was picked fourth overall by the Chicago Red Stars in the 2014 National Women's Soccer League College Draft. Ranking as one of the most decorated Illinois soccer players in school history, DiBernardo was a two-time All-American, collecting NSCAA second-team honors in 2011 and third-team accolades in 2012, and was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List three times.
She excelled immediately on the field as an Illini, beginning her career as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010. She earned Big Ten Midfielder of the Year honors in 2011 while leading the Illini to their second Big Ten Tournament title in program history.
-Jeff Vorva, Special to the Tribune