Soccer to face two tough games


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Poor passing doomed the Iowa soccer team in its last game as it couldn't hold onto a one-goal lead on Oct. 8 against Minnesota.

The Hawkeyes (10-2-2, 2-2-2 Big Ten) gave up two goals in the second half, and they were handed their second loss of the season.

But playing Big Ten soccer means every game is a challenge — and the Black and Gold will face their toughest test of the season as they go on the road to Columbus, Ohio, and State College, Pa., to face Ohio State and Penn State.

"I thought we played pretty well; we just had a couple mistakes that [Minnesota] capitalized on easily," senior goalkeeper Emily Moran said. "Unfortunately, that happened, and we've been going over defense overall [this week in practice]."

Iowa's defense will have to be at its very best against the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.

Ohio State is 8-5-1 in 2011 after finishing the 2010 season with a record of 17-5-2, 8-2 in the Big Ten.
Penn State has appeared in the NCAA Tournament every year since 2007 under fifth-year head coach Erica Walsh, and a 12-3-0 (5-1) record this year has led the Nittany Lions to No. 15 nationally.

"We told ourselves that this week would be very important for us," senior midfielder Rachel Blakesley said. "It's extremely vital that we come out and work harder in practice this week than we have in the last couple ones.

"We know what types of personalities Ohio State and Penn State have, and we're trying to make practice specific to the types of team we're facing."

One of the players Iowa will have to contain is Penn State's Maya Hayes. The sophomore forward from West Orange, N.J., leads the country in goals (18) and points (41).

She also is a member of the U.S. under-20 women's national team pool, along with teammate Christine Nairn.

Sixth-year head coach Ron Rainey has never beaten Penn State — the Hawkeyes have lost every game to the Nittany Lions in their 14-year existence and have been outscored, 51-6 — and has only beaten Ohio State once. That was a 1-0 overtime win in 2007.

Rainey said he doesn't think about his record against the teams when facing them.

"We know — when these two teams come into town or we go visit them — that Ohio State and Penn State are two of the best teams, year in and year out, in the league," Rainey said. "[They] are two teams from the Big Ten, other than Wisconsin, that have gone to a Final Four."

Rainey also said there are often only a few moments per half that can change the entire outcome of a close game — he cited Iowa's loss to Minnesota as an example — and he hopes his team will capitalize on those moments this weekend.

"We've done things this year that are very special," Rainey said. "There's pressure on us to perform at a high level, and that's the reality of playing in the Big Ten. We have confidence that if we do things really well, then the teams will have to be at their best to stop us."

Follow DI soccer reporter Ben Wolfson on Twitter.

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