Pair of losses eliminates Iowa soccer from Big Ten title chase

BY TOM CLOS | OCTOBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa soccer team entered this past weekend needing to sweep both of its matches to keep any chances of a Big Ten Championship alive.

But Iowa (11-2-4, 2-3-3 Big Ten) suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season in a pair of defeats to Ohio State on Oct. 12 and No. 4 Penn State on Sunday at the Iowa Soccer Complex, with the former officially eliminating them from the conference championship race with three games remaining in the regular season.

The Buckeyes (10-4-1, 5-2-1) jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first half and never looked back in rolling over the Hawkeyes, 4-1. The loss was the Black and Gold’s first at home in 2012 and halted the team’s five-match unbeaten streak.

Iowa’s freshman goaltending duo of Hannah Clark and Meg Goodson allowed a season-high 4 goals in the loss, breaking the group’s string of three-consecutive shutouts.

Sophomore forward Cloe Lacasse believes the Scarlett and Gray simply used her squad’s flawed performance against them in the disappointing result.

“Ohio State finally punished us on the little mistakes we were making, so now we know what we have to work on,” she said. “It was unacceptable.”

The Hawkeyes outperformed the Nittany Lions (14-2-0, 8-0-0) for much of the match on Sunday but were unable to capitalize on several chances to tie the game in the final 10 minutes of play, falling, 2-1.

Iowa held a 23-15 advantage in shots and an 8-4 lead in corner kicks, but sophomore defenseman Melanie Pickert’s header attempt off a corner kick in the waning minutes sailed over the net, allowing the visitors to escape.

“We’re happy with the effort, but it’s just frustrating we couldn’t get one in the back of the net,” she said. “As a defense, we’ve got to get back to shutouts and give our offense more of an opportunity.”

The lone bright-spot for the Hawkeyes was Lacasse’s goal in the 18th minute. The tally broke a seven-game pointless streak for the team’s leading-scorer and provided a positive step as she attempts a full-recovery from an ankle injury.

“I’m happy things are starting to get better, and obviously, it’s starting to show,” she said. “Every game [my ankle] is getting better, and I just can’t wait until it is 100 percent, finally.”

The lost weekend leaves Iowa struggling to maintain a top-eight qualifying position for the Big Ten Tournament and moves the final trio of games on the schedule each into the “must-win” category.

Head coach Ron Rainey didn’t want to examine the next set of matches in do-or-die mode, but instead decided to take what positives his squad showed in the losses and utilize them moving forward.

“Overall, we learned a lot how well we can play when we’re all on the same page this weekend,” he said. “And we’ll use all of it to prepare for Nebraska.”

For a late season home stand that provided so much opportunity, it turned out to cause nothing but anxiety for a team that was supposed to make a serious run at an historic league crown.

Much remains to be achieved this season though, as the Hawkeyes can still finish 2012 with the best record in program history, as well as take a shot at the Big Ten Tournament in November.

The players are ready to try to salvage what they can.

“We may have fallen off the tracks a little bit this weekend,” Pickert said. “But we’re at the point where we need to figure it out ourselves and just get back into it.”

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