Iowa soccer needs help on Friday and win Saturday to get into Big Ten tourney

BY TOM CLOS | OCTOBER 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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This weekend, the Iowa soccer team will get one final opportunity to salvage its season and clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament for the second-straight year.

That is, if it gets some help.

The Hawkeyes (11-5-3, 2-5-3 Big Ten) can advance to the conference playoff with a victory over Wisconsin (12-5-1, 5-4-1) Saturday — but only if Indiana loses to No. 25 Ohio State today. A win or tie by the Hoosiers over the Buckeyes, and the Hawkeyes’ season — that once contained championship aspirations backed by a historic 9-0 start — will come to a crashing conclusion.

“Earlier this week, we talked about how we don’t want this to be the last game for our seniors or the rest of the team, for that matter,” Iowa head coach Ron Rainey said. “We want to do anything we can to keep this season going.”

Iowa finds itself in this predicament thanks to an ongoing seven-match winless streak dating back to Sept. 23. The squad defeated Purdue, 3-2, on that day.

The Black and Gold’s next three matches, though, ended in 0-0 draws with Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota. Consecutive defeats to Ohio State, then-No. 4 Penn State, and Nebraska followed, dropping the team out of tournament position.

The Hawkeyes seemed to catch a break at the most opportune time Sunday when they were paired with last-place Northwestern while the Hoosiers traveled to Wisconsin.

The Badgers beat Indiana, but the Wildcats shut out Iowa, 1-0; the Hawks thus squandered a golden opportunity to avoid disaster, which pushed them to the fringe of qualification.

Senior defenseman Dana Dalrymple is one of six seniors who could don the Black and Gold for a final time Saturday. She’s felt the pain from the team’s recent struggles and pointed to the stretch of draws at midseason as the turning point of the campaign.

“We try not to look back and say, ‘Oh well, what if we had done this or that?’ ” Dalrymple said last week. “But still, tying three times in a row was certainly not what we had hoped for.”

Wisconsin has won five-consecutive matches and is tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings. The Badgers helped keep Iowa’s season alive last weekend but will try to put an end to what’s left of it Saturday.

“We have to keep chopping away and get good reps,” Rainey said. “The margin of error in this conference is really slim, and hopefully, we get that one bounce in our favor.”

Junior forward Ashley Catrell is a key cog in an offense that has just three goals during the winless run. She felt good about her crew’s attack and said the half-season long woes have come simply from a lack of execution.

“It hasn’t been bad because we’ve been making plays on the field,” Catrell said last week. “But we have to finish — that’s the main focus.”

Last season, the Iowa soccer program took a huge step forward out of obscurity with its first-ever Big Ten Tournament appearance. One year later, and with a single game remaining, the program is on the verge of watching, not playing, in the end of the year event.

“One of our goals is always going to be to make it to the Big Ten Tournament,” Rainey said. “And now we need some things to happen on Friday.”

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