Soccer faces Missouri


The best word to describe the atmosphere and attitudes surrounding the Iowa soccer team during its media day on Aug. 18 would be “buzzing.”

And there is plenty of buzz being generated both inside and outside of the program as the women get set for the upcoming season, which will begin today when the Hawkeyes host No. 24 Missouri at the Iowa Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.

Players talked about taking the program to the proverbial “next level” this season, and they were asked what exactly that “next level” was and what the process of getting there would entail.

“We went over our philosophy of what we want to do this year, and we call ourselves an emerging program,” senior midfielder and cocaptain Heather Windsor said. “We want to really come out to be one of the top programs in the country and top programs in the Big Ten — really move up in those rankings.”

Iowa aims to make a dramatic improvement from last fall’s 9-11-1 finish. Head coach Ron Rainey, who begins his fourth year with the Hawkeyes, hopes his players will be motivated by other Big Ten coaches picking Iowa to tie for 10th in the conference. Last season, Rainey’s team finished eighth.

“I think this team would be upset if that’s where we finish,” he said. “I think we want to take a good step forward this year. The next level is going to be beating more Big Ten teams. It’s really that simple.

“I hope that the players will play with a chip on their shoulder, and they should, because there are teams in this league that when we’re playing well, we have just as good a chance to beat them as they do to beat us. I think our team has gotten to the point that we think we can beat anybody that we go up against.”

Key contributors for Iowa will be senior midfielder Alex Seydel, junior defender and 2008 team MVP Jenna Aleo, and midfielder/defender Jackie Kaeding, a fifth-year senior and team cocaptain.

Also expected to build on a strong 2008 performance is sophomore midfielder Morgan Showalter after earning All-Big Ten freshmen team honors, as well as leading points scorer Keli McLaughlin, a junior forward.

Alyssa Cosnek, Iowa’s leading goal-scorer last season, returns as a sophomore forward, and sophomore Emily Moran and junior Kali Feiereisel have been sharing reps at goalkeeper during the preseason.

Iowa also welcomes a highly touted, nine-member freshman class this fall. Rainey knows he has tons of talented players to count on this season.

“You could go down, and I could sit here and name 30 people. We told the kids at the beginning of the year that 30 people are going to do something special,” he said. “For some, it’s going to be on the game field; for some, it’s going to be on the practice field. But they have to figure out how are they going to define themselves to allow the team to make that big jump in the Big Ten.”

Kaeding recently had a screw put in her ankle to repair a stress fracture, but she is expected to start against Missouri, which has been picked to finish first in the Big 12 preseason poll.

Ten of Iowa’s 11 losses last season were by one goal. Knowing how close the program is to taking that step to the next level has Seydel expecting more than ever from herself and her teammates.

“I think my expectations are the highest they’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” she said. “I’m really excited. Probably the biggest expectation that I have is that we make the [NCAA] Tournament. We haven’t done it since I’ve been here. It’s a huge goal. I think we have a quality program, and I think we have the talent, the players, and the coaches to do it, so I’m really excited.”

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