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Hawkeyes shutting teams out frequently

BY JACOB SHEYKO | OCTOBER 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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For the Iowa soccer team, shutting out opponents has become somewhat of a common occurrence. With five matches remaining, the Hawks have posted seven shutouts on the season.

This mark is three shy of the school record — set last season — of 10. The Hawks are also tied for first among teams in the Big Ten.

“I think we pride ourselves on good defense all over the field,” junior Caitlin Brown said. “If we lose a ball in our offensive third, just getting it back as quick as possible so it can’t get far down the field. It’s a whole effort with our 11.”

Those familiar with the Iowa soccer program under head coach Ron Rainey will not find the team’s defensive prowess as a surprise. Since he took helm in 2006, the Hawkeyes have averaged eight shutouts per season.

“Philosophically, I’ve always believed that if you shut a team out, the worst you can do is tie,” Rainey said. “I’m not one of those 4-3, let’s outscore somebody. I think that if you get somebody down 1-0 or 2-1, you keep them away from your goal.”

That philosophy has existed throughout his tenure, and this year’s club is not different. Even when the Hawks aren’t shutting out opponents, they are limiting their chances at scoring. Through the Hawks 14 games this season, Iowa is allowing 0.79 goals per game.

Interestingly enough, the only statistical difference between the Hawks shutout games and non-shutout games is the number of shots attempted by the opposition.

In Iowa’s games in which they post a shutout, Hawkeye opponents have launched 8.85 shots per game. The figure is 10.57 shots in the Hawkeyes’ other games.

“The communication in the back has gotten a lot better,” midfielder Anne Marie Thomas said. “We work on it a lot during practice, so that helps a lot.”

Given this success, the Hawks’ chances of breaking the single-season shutout record remains a relatively low probability. First, the Hawks will have to post four shutouts in their final five games to break the mark. Second, the majority of the Hawks’ upcoming opponents score at a high volume.

Of the Hawks’ next five opponents, three of them average more than 2 goals per contest — including Penn State, the No. 1 goal-scoring team in the Big Ten.

The Hawks’ next opponent — No. 21 Minnesota — is one match that has the makings of a low scoring duel. Minnesota comes into the match averaging 1.43 goals per game, 11th among Big Ten teams.

The Hawkeyes are riding a two-game winning streak going into the matchup and currently stand at 11-3-0 overall, 3-3-0 in conference play.

“[We’re] trying to fine-tune a bunch of things,” Rainey said. “Possession through the middle third to lead to more numbers when we attack. And then also some things defensively, where we’re trying to close down space and not allow shots from a distance.”

The matchup will take place at 7 p.m. in Minneapolis.

“With where we are in the Big Ten, our kids are realizing how good everyone is,” Rainey said. “And also that you really have to play your best game of the year to get a win.”


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