Road challenge awaits soccer


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Playing on the road in the Big Ten — let alone winning — is never easy. But the Iowa soccer team aims to steal a pair of victories from a pair of conference foes this weekend.

For the second-straight year, the Hawkeyes (8-4, 0-2) travel east for their toughest road test of the season to take on No. 25 Ohio State today at 6:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. Then the team will head to State College, Pa., to face Penn State on Oct. 11 at 10 a.m.

“A team that wants to be great has to do well on the road,” Iowa head coach Ron Rainey said. “We just have to go out and work hard, and if we do that, maybe some breaks will come our way. But again those teams are going to play with a lot of pride on their home fields.”

Iowa’s Big Ten schedule has five matches each home and away. The Buckeyes (8-2-1, 1-1) and Nittany Lions (5-5-1, 1-1) are tied for seventh place in the conference; the Hawkeyes are 11th.

“We want to prove something to not only everyone else but to ourselves and push each other to come out with a good weekend,” sophomore midfielder Morgan Showalter said.

After having the best start in the program’s history, this weekend could be a huge challenge for the Hawkeyes, with two conference matches up for grabs. After losing to Minnesota and Wisconsin last week, Iowa stands winless in Big Ten play.

Iowa lost at Ohio State, 3-2, last season before falling to Penn State, 1-0, on the road in extra time. Senior midfielder Alex Seydel remembers but says it has no bearing on the present.

“That’s definitely something we as a team try to throw out,” Seydel said. “This is one of the best teams this program has had. Both games were solid games [last season]. You learn to compete against these teams.”

Both Ohio State and Penn State hold the edge in each of their all-time series against Iowa. The Buckeyes hold a 7-4-1 advantage, while the Hawkeyes have never beaten the Nittany Lions in 14 tries.

But Rainey said that’s not something the team thinks about before playing the opponents.

“Not at all,” Rainey said. “We want to prepare for each team we play and put our best team forward, try to attack their weaknesses and play to our strengths. The history is the history, but I think [today] both teams will be looking to get a good result in the game.”

The Hawkeyes are coming off a deflating 1-0 loss in double overtime to Wisconsin at home on Sunday. But the team emphasizes rebounding well after a loss, Seydel said.

“It’s a mental thing. You realize these are the things we need to fix in practice to get better,” she said. “I think after a loss, it’s even more important to go through that process. We’re confident in our ability to give them tough games.”

Showalter said Iowa’s attitude is fine and the team is focused for the games.

“Sometimes, you get down after a loss, but the way we’ve been practicing this week, we want to win this weekend more than normal,” she said. “I’m confident we’ll do well.”

Rainey doesn’t have to be told how crucial the road trip is for the Hawkeyes — especially when No. 17 Illinois comes to Iowa City for a night game on Oct. 17.

“As cliché as it is, you go one game at a time,” Rainey said. “Ohio State is a great opponent, and we’ll have to play our best game of the year to beat it.”

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