Improving conference play is next step for Iowa soccer


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With its 2-0 win over Pacific, Iowa soccer extended its nonconference winning streak to 22 games.

But you’ll see no celebration of the streak, for head coach Ron Rainey and his squad know that none of it matters until they start winning consistently against Big Ten opponents.

Rainey boasts a 69-60-17 record during his tenure at Iowa — the most wins for a head coach in the program’s history. But that success has not translated well into conference play. As Rainey enters his eighth season, his conference record stands at 18-45-9.

Rainey believes that the Hawkeyes have to keep that aspect in mind every time they step on the field.

“The Big Ten is a tremendous conference,” he said. “We want to identify moments in practice where we play to a level that would be real good against anyone who is on our schedule.”

The Hawkeyes have had more success as of late with Big Ten opponents than in previous years. In the last two seasons — the most successful two-season stretch in Iowa soccer history — the Hawkeyes have gone 8-9-5 against Big Ten competition.

One element common in Big Ten play that has found its way into the Hawkeyes’ first four games of the season has been their physicality, and Rainey sees this as a positive.

“I think in the Big Ten we have to be ready for that,” Rainey said. “And we want to play that same way.”

The Hawkeyes certainly have a team worthy of Big Ten success. One of the Hawks’ strengths is their air game, something that junior Melanie Pickert keyed in on after they defeated Western Michigan on Aug. 25.

“We’ve got Alex [Melin] and Emily [Scott] in front of me and Caitlyn Brown,” Pickert said. “We’re really strong in the air and I think we pride ourselves on that.”

Another strength for the Hawks sure to help them during conference play is the return of their top two point scorers from last year — Cloe Lacasse and Ashley Catrell. The two have combined for 3 goals this year.

Rainey has been particularly pleased with Lacasse’s play around the box in the early season. If Lacasse doesn’t score in these situations, she usually draws a foul.

“She gets in and out of space relatively quickly,” Rainey said. “We’ve told her that goals are just as good as assists and just as good as drawing some penalty kicks and fouls outside the box.”

Iowa will head home after finishing a two game West Coast trip. The Hawkeyes will return to play Iowa State in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday.

These games will not only provide the Hawks with an opportunity to extend their nonconference winning streak to 23 but also provide another opportunity for the Hawks to ready themselves for Big Ten play.

“Every game that isn’t part of our conference [schedule] is to improve,” Lacasse said. “The Big Ten is what we want to win.”

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