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Freshmen soccer players long-time teammates

BY BEN WOLFSON | SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa soccer freshmen Mel Pickert and Katie Brown have started every game as a center-back tandem on the defensive line this season.

The transition to anchor the defense has been easy for Pickert and Brown because they played had together on the same club team — the Michigan Hawks — since they were 13 years old.

The chemistry between the pair has allowed them step into the middle of the defense while seniors Morgan Showalter and Rachel Blakesley and junior Kat Lewis play on the outside.

Both freshmen will see some familiar faces this weekend when the Black and Gold host Michigan and Michigan State.

"I have friends on the Michigan State team and a bunch of girls from my club team went to play there," Pickert said. "Michigan is 20 minutes from my house, so there's an extra fire there [to face them]."

Pickert toured Michigan State the day before she ended up committing to the Hawkeyes (9-0-2, 1-0-2 Big Ten). She attributed her decision to attend school in Iowa City to the Hawkeye coaching staff, the campus, and that club teammates Brown and Jordan Rakas had committed to Iowa.

"You can see [the chemistry] with them interacting," head coach Ron Rainey said. "They've been through some good games together. They've done some things — not just with their club team but with their [Olympic Development Program] regional team. [They've] seen each other playing in that atmosphere, and those things have helped them transition as well."

One of the freshmen's roles is to call out to the midfield and tell them where they should be on the field, which helps the team adjust its defensive shape.

Being so vocal on the field was a somewhat daunting task at first for Brown, but she said her veteran teammates have eased her into it.

"I think I have [become more vocal]," Brown said. "I was a bit more skittish toward the start, but I've opened up more and gotten comfortable talking to players. They encourage me to [talk], and they tell me it's my role."

Pickert, Brown, and rest of the defense have allowed only eight goals in the season's first 11 games.

They will face Michigan (6-3-2, 1-1-1) tonight at the Iowa Soccer Complex, and they will try to shut down sophomore Nkem Ezurike and junior Clare Stachel. The duo has combined for nine goals and seven assists on the season.

Pickert and Brown will start for Iowa.

"Our two freshman who have come into the back have really stepped up to play the role of the two center-backs," Showalter said on Sept. 12. "They've really helped us with assuming our shape … just being able to come in and step into those roles is a big strength for us."


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