Iowa soccer loses in first round of Big Ten tournament


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The first game of the 2011 Big Ten women's soccer tournament felt like a battle through 110 minutes of play on Tuesday.

There was no score, and neither Iowa nor Michigan State had many legitimate scoring chances; the Hawkeyes finished with eight shots to the Spartans' 10. The play was physical, and 16 fouls were whistled — one of them coming when senior defender Morgan Showalter was grabbed around the waist and thrown to the ground by Spartans midfielder Hannah Peterson.

After two scoreless overtimes, the teams were destined for a penalty kick shootout.

The Hawkeyes seemed content to stick back and defend in overtime rather than go on the attack, but the players said they don't regret the strategy.

"As long as I've been on this team, we've been a very defensive-minded team," sophomore Leah DeMoss said. "[But] it seems so unfair after you've worked that hard for that long and the game is decided on five penalty kicks."

Senior goalkeeper Emily Moran — who had been brilliant all game — guessed correctly on each of the Spartans' four attempts but was unable to get her fingertips on any; they were all driven low and tucked into the corners of the net.

The Black and Gold sent junior Jade Grimm, Showalter, sophomore Alex Melin, senior Rachel Blakesley, and freshman Cloé Lacasse against Spartans goalkeeper Jill Fliestra.

After Grimm's shot was saved, Showalter, Melin, and Blakesley all converted theirs. The team's season was left to Lacasse, the freshman who led the Hawkeyes in scoring over the course of the fall.

But the forward drilled her shot right at Fliestra, and the senior turned it away. The Spartans won, and they will advance to Friday's semifinals against Illinois.

"Today was a day neither team had a ton of chances," Iowa head coach Ron Rainey said. "Both teams played very well and were disciplined defensively — they were better in penalty kicks than us, [but] it doesn't take away from an awesome season.

"I'm really proud of what we did this year — not just in nonconference play, but in Big Ten play. That's something we've been striving for the past couple years."

This was Iowa's first postseason appearance since 2008, when the Hawkeyes made the field because they hosted the Big Ten Tournament.

The Black and Gold enjoyed a breakthrough year for the soccer program, which hadn't had much to show in its previous 13 years of existence.

Ending the regular season with a 13-4-2 record, the Hawkeyes had a .737 winning percentage — the highest in school history. They also tied for the most victories in a season (13) and home victories (7), and set new school records for the fewest losses (4), the longest winning streak (8), the longest unbeaten streak (11), the fewest goals allowed (17), and best goals-against average (0.87).

"It means a lot [to compete in the postseason]," Showalter said. "This is one of the best teams that Iowa has had — not just as soccer players, but people. The team has a lot to look forward to going into next season."

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