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Hawks prepare for road intensive schedule

BY JACOB SHEYKO | SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa soccer team is headed into possibly its toughest portion of the schedule. Following a loss to No. 15 Michigan on Sunday, the Hawkeyes now face the road-intensive portion of the season.

Michigan was the first Big Ten contest for many players and a learning experience that could be useful for the upcoming matches.

“There was a huge difference,” freshman Bri Toelle said. “It’s a much faster pace, it’s way more intense, there are more nerves. But ultimately it’s the same game, soccer. It’s the game I love, and I just go out there and play to the best of my ability.”

Of the Hawkeyes’ next seven contests, six of them will be on the road. The Hawkeyes will head out to Champaign, Ill., to start a three-game road trip against Illinois, Northwestern, and Nebraska.

The Hawks will then return home for a match against Michigan State, before heading back on the road for matches at Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The Hawks won’t benefit from an easy schedule on the road, either. Of the next seven games, Iowa’s opponents have a record of 40-13-9.

To put that into perspective, of the Hawkeyes’ nine games thus far this season, their opponents have combined to go 23-46-13.

Those games will see Iowa not only play a plethora of teams with quality records but some of the top ranked teams in the country, including No. 24 Wisconsin, a Nebraska team fresh off an upset over No. 14 Denver, and a Minnesota team receiving votes for the top 25. 

But if the Hawks learned anything from their matchup with Michigan on Sunday, it’s that they can hang with any caliber of team.

“Every game is an opportunity to get better,” junior defender Caitlin Brown said. “I have enough confidence in this team to play [Michigan] any day. We can compete with any team in this conference.”

Even in light of this schedule, most of the players aren’t worried about the road games affecting their play.

“Our fans are great, but sometimes you don’t have the same fan base on the road,” Brown said. “You just have to bring your own energy.”

In terms of preparing for the road games, head coach Ron Rainey isn’t worried, either; at this point in the season, the Hawks’ preparation for games doesn’t differ much, home or away.

“A lot of the preparation now is based on what team were facing,” Rainey said. “Most of our players here have played at all of these places, and there’s a few that we were at last year.”

The Hawkeyes have NCAA Tournament aspirations. Whether those aspirations are accomplished will be heavily influenced by how the Hawkeyes play during this stretch of games.

“We have experience, and we have players who have played in these games,” Rainey said. “I think now it’s not accepting losses, it’s not accepting tie games, it’s figuring out a way to lead in these games.”


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