Soccer players stress consistency against Western Illinois

BY BEN WOLFSON | AUGUST 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Even though the Iowa women's soccer team has opened the 2011 season with two victories, against DePaul and Southeast Missouri State, head coach Ron Rainey is still concerned about the mentality and consistency his players have displayed in those two games.

After Iowa's Aug. 21 game against Southeast Missouri, the players and Rainey agreed the team's performance wasn't sharp or as focused as it needs to be if the team wants to keep winning.

Tonight's home game against Western Illinois should be an early season test for the Hawkeyes.

The Leathernecks accumulated a 10-6-5 overall record last year, and they are 23-9-2 in five seasons of Summit League play under head coach Tony Guinn.

"I think we have to mentally be ready for a really tough opponent," Rainey said. "[Western Illinois] is a stingy opponent, one that has done very well in its league. When it goes outside of the league, it wins games — or it is in very competitive games.

"I have a lot of respect for the team and the program."

Rainey's team has had shorter practices than normal to help the players adjust during the first week of classes. However, these practices are geared to keep a high intensity level for the duration and are aimed at addressing the issues Iowa needs to work on the most.

One concern brought up from the game against Southeast Missouri was the team's focus.

"It definitely wasn't the best team effort we've had," freshman Cloe Lacasse said. "We weren't really into the game until the second half, when we came out and had a better impact on the field. Hopefully, [our effort] gets better throughout the season, because that wasn't good enough."

Senior Morgan Showalter agreed.

"If we want to do well in the Big Ten, there's no way we can play down to that level," she said. "We'll have to set a high level of play in the beginning [tonight] and keep playing consistently like we did against Drake [in a 6-0 exhibition win on Aug. 13]."

To help the team transfer its intensity from the practice field to the game, Rainey said, his players will engage in positive talk and mental exercises.

"It's things we want the players doing, not just visualizing things but giving them positive self-talk," Rainey said. "Or kinesthetically, seeing them doing the actions that can transfer to the field."

One player who will try to continue play well for Iowa is Lacasse. The newcomer from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, has made her presence felt in the starting lineup.

Lacasse scored twice in Iowa's 3-0 win over DePaul on Aug. 19, becoming the first Hawkeye freshman to score in the first game of the season since teammate Alyssa Cosnek accomplished the feat against Drake in 2008.

In Iowa's 2-1 Aug. 21 victory over Southeast Missouri, Lacasse's penetration in the box enabled teammate Katie Nasenbenny to draw a penalty kick and eventually score the game-winning goal.

"[Cloe has] meant a lot to the team," Showalter said. "She came in fired up in preseason, worked hard, and has been in a starting position for the first three games we've played. She brings that spark of not settling for a shot on goal."

"Her mentality of not stopping until she's finished is really good [for us]."

Follow DI soccer reporter Ben Wolfson on Twitter.

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