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Iowa soccer defense anchoring quick start

BY JACOB SHEYKO | SEPTEMBER 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Hawkeyes defense last season was historically good. What’s scary for their opponents is it could be better this year.

It’s hard to imagine this Iowa soccer team improving upon a season in which they set the school record for shutouts in a season with 10 and tied the team record for fewest goals allowed in a regular season.

But after returning from their West Coast road trip, the Hawks are four games into the 2013 campaign. It appears as if not much has changed for the Hawkeyes on the defensive side of the ball for this season’s Hawkeyes are shutting down opponents in a way that is reminiscent of last year’s record setting squad.

The Hawkeyes burst out of the gate this season with a 4-0 record. In these games, Iowa has only allowed 1 goal and shut out three opponents in the process.

“Overall, we’ve prided ourselves on being a good defensive team,” Midfielder Alex Melin said. “Our backline does a good job of communicating when we can build up through the midfield. It really puts teams under high pressure.”

The Hawks aren’t just shutting opponents out, they are barely allowing them to get a shot off. Iowa is currently outshooting their opponents 67-39 and holding opponent’s shots in the single digits with only 9.8 per game.

When opponents do get a shot off, it’s typically no risk to the Hawkeyes. Only 30 percent of opponent’s shots are shots on goal.

“Our backline has been doing really well talking to us,” midfielder Anne Marie Thomas said. “All four of them have been talking to us so we know what to do in the middle.”

The Hawkeyes have welcomed a lot of new faces to the program, but the defense returns most of its key starters from last season’s team.

Iowa returns three midfielders from last season that started every game for the Hawks — Katie Nasenbenny, Melin, and Thomas. The Hawks also return two of their top defenders — Melanie Pickert and Caitlin Brown. Brown played a team high 1,845 minutes last season.

This experience has carried over into the new season, particularly early in the season where many teams are looking to guide freshmen into a new environment and the college level of play.

“Every year, you get new players and new freshmen coming in,” Brown said. “I think it’s just older players trying to mentor them and give them the guidance and confidence they need.”

The Hawkeyes’ goal is to make the NCAA Tournament. This is a lofty goal for a program that has never enjoyed much postseason success. But with each shutout the Hawks post, that lofty goal appears more reasonable.

“As with anything you just strive to be better than you ever have been,” Brown said. “That means doing all the little things right, communicating, and taking the extra time in practice to do the things you need to work on.”


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