Commentary: No. 14 Hawkeyes need to put it all together to do well in Big Ten


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A big test awaits No. 14 Iowa this afternoon in Evanston, Ill. The Hawkeyes open their Big Ten schedule against No. 12 Northwestern, which is coming off its first loss of the season after starting off with eight-straight wins.

Iowa’s performance of late has raised the question: When is this team going to put it all together for a big win?

The Hawkeyes have the pieces — there is no doubt about that.

Natalie Cafone is ranked third in the Big Ten in points, tied at 16 with Northwestern forward Nikki Parsley. Steph Norlander, whom the Hawks will be without for the secondstraight weekend because she is playing in the Pan American Cup in Argentina, is a huge scoring threat and is becoming a star in her freshman year. Niki Schultheis and Karli Johansen anchor the Hawkeye defense along with goalkeeper Kelsey Boyce, who has three shutouts on the season.

How do the 5-3 Hawkeyes piece this puzzle together and defeat a ranked team for only the second time this season?

Offensively, the solution is simple — convert the scoring chances that they have been creating.

In their Sept. 20 loss to Drexel (6-2), head coach Tracey Griesbaum’s squad took 19 shots and only managed to put one in the back of the net. The Hawkeyes know they need to upgrade their percentage. To improve, they have been watching a lot of film of their opponent.

“Just knowing their [goalkeeper’s] tendencies and playing around her, and reading her better [will help],” Cafone said about Northwestern keeper Maddy Carpenter. “Against Drexel, I feel like we weren’t reading the goalkeeper — we were just taking shots and not being that smart about it.”

Defensively, Iowa will look for experience to aid it in stopping the Wildcat attack, led by Parsley. Senior Marike Stribos has started in the Hawkeye’s last three regular-season games with Northwestern, in which the Hawkeyes have gone 2-1, including a 3-2 overtime victory last season at Grant Field. She said the some of her more senior teammate’s experience will help, but that isn’t all the Hawks need.

“We kind of know their skills and their tendencies, so that does help,” the native of Brussels, Belgium, said. “At the end of the day, they’re a whole team, and we can’t just focus on two or three people.”

Not having your second-leading scorer to open the conference season is a disadvantage, there’s no doubt about that. The Hawkeye frontline will look to try Norlander while she competes internationally for Canada.

However, Griesbaum believes her team is good enough to make up for the freshman’s temporary absence.

“She not only is a good finisher, but she also helps create and get the ball into the circle too,” the 14-year head coach said. “We have to have our midfielders really shooting through and support the ball.”

With or without Norlander, it’s no secret that this team has the potential to be a very good, even great, team. It’s about playing a full team game, finishing scoring chances — which there are plenty of — and getting solid defense and goalkeeping. If the Hawkeyes can do these things, the Big Ten crown could begin its journey back to Iowa City, starting in Evanston this afternoon.

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