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Iowa soccer ramps up non-conference schedule

BY CODY GOODWIN | AUGUST 21, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women’s soccer team had a breakout season last year. And the players believe they can do better this fall.

They started fast, winning 10 of their first 12 games and tallying 30 goals as a squad. The numbers may have slowed down once the Big Ten schedule began — a conference slate that yielded the only four losses of the year. But Iowa went on to record one of, if not the, most successful seasons in recent history.

The Hawks finished 13-4-3 (5-4-2 Big Ten) and broke or tied nine school records. Of their 13 wins, nine of them were shutouts. They posted their best winning percentage ever at .737, along with a nine-game winning streak. That streak was also a part of a 12-game unbeaten streak.

But ask head coach Ron Rainey about the expectations for this upcoming season, and he’ll say this year’s team can be even better. Specifically, he said this season is going to be a fun one.

“We have to be ready to play at a higher level than we did last year,” he continued. “We did well in the [conference] last year, and I believe that our players want to do well in the [conference] this year.”

The head coach spoke very highly of the first few weeks of the preseason, where the players have participated in two-a-days out at the Iowa Soccer Complex. He said the first few practices, which began on Aug. 1, have shown this season’s team is prepared to face higher expectations and tougher opponents from a year ago.

To say the team’s schedule is tougher might be an understatement. Compared with last year’s nonconference foes, the Hawkeyes have amped up the level of competition, raising their opponent’s average RPI  “some 30 to 40 points” from a year ago. Notable nonconference opponents for this year’s squad include Army and Long Island-Brooklyn — both NCAA Tournament qualifiers a year ago.

That alone has the Iowa players thinking bigger. Many of the players believe that this year’s team has the potential to contend for the conference title, as well as possibly reach the Big Dance.

“I think it’s going to be our best season yet,” senior forward/midfielder Allie Adam said. “I think we have the potential to [make the NCAA Tournament], but we still have to go out there and make it happen.”

The Hawkeyes have never made the tournament, and they have only made the Big Ten tourney a select amount of times. If they’re going to snag a spot in the 64-team NCAA field this season, they’re going to have to rely on an underclassmen-heavy lineup. Of the 24 women who are listed on the roster, 16 are either freshmen or sophomores.

As recent history has shown, underclassmen are welcome on the field for Iowa. Last season, Cloe Lacasse posted a record-breaking season as a freshman, racking up 12 goals and tallying six more assists.

Lacasse, a native of Ontario, Canada, kept her skills fine-tuned this past summer when she got the opportunity to play with the Canadian U20 National Team. Experience like that only heightened her confidence.

She has showed no signs of slowing down. This past weekend, Lacasse scored three goals in two games. The Hawkeyes won both games — 5-0 over Eastern Illinois and 3-0 over North Dakota — sparking a 2-0-0 start.

The sophomore said this season will likely be a better one, both for her and for the team. The familiarity with the Big Ten, she said, will be a strong factor.

“I’m just hoping that what I did this summer is going to work out,” she said.


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