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Commentary: No. 18 Hawkeyes on the upswing as season winds down

BY DANNY PAYNE | OCTOBER 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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Seven. No, it’s not George Costanza’s unborn child, it’s the grade Dani Hemeon and Niki Schultheis gave their team on a scale of 1-10 before their most recent victories over Ohio State and Miami.

However, after defeating those two teams and extending the Hawkeyes’ winning streak to five, they made a case for that ranking to be higher. However, there are a few things about this team that are still worrisome.

Consistency

The No. 18 Hawkeyes seem to be turning it around in this category thanks to their recent five-game streak. However, their variable play this season has caused some uneasy feelings for those that watch Iowa compete regularly.

One of the most prominent examples of inconsistency has been the Hawkeyes’ scoring by half. In some games, head coach Tracey Griesbaum’s squad has jumped on opponents early, as it did in the match against Pacific, when the Hawks scored 4 goals before the game reached the 20-minute mark. In other contests, Iowa has waited until the second half to get on the board, as it did at Northwestern on Sept. 27, when the team scored 3 goals in the second half after being blanked in the first.

Finishing

Before we move on to the things this team has done well, let’s take a look at their struggle to finish close games. In games decided by 1 goal, Iowa (10-5, 2-2) is 0-3, and it is reasonable to add a fourth loss if the Sept. 8 matchup with North Carolina is included, because the Tar Heels scored on a penalty corner after time had expired.

Depending on the way you look at it, that statistic can be promising because the Hawks have been right there with some of the nation’s best. Or it can be alarming, because naysayers may claim that they simply cannot come away victorious in these games. But I’m one of those people that have chosen to look at it in a positive light. Why? Because of Iowa’s potent offense and strong defense.

Offense

The Big Ten’s leading scorer, Natalie Cafone — who also ranks second in the NCAA with 2.67 points per game — along with Hemeon lead Iowa’s offense. In addition to Cafone’s 40 points, Hemeon boasts 25 points, which is good for fourth in the Big Ten. The two Hawkeyes have been a nightmare for recent opponents, scoring a combined 15 goals over the last five games and accounting for over half of the team’s 53 goals (which leads the Big Ten) on the season.

To be fair, these last few wins haven’t come against the most challenging of opponents, but the Hawkeye offense is doing what it should to these types of teams — scoring goals and a lot of them.

Defense

Finally, the Iowa defense has been a constant all season, only allowing an average of 1.47 goals per game, which ranks third in the Big Ten. A large portion of this can be attributed to the strong backline of Schultheis and fellow senior Karli Johansen.

It’s not just the backs that have made the defense successful, it’s the play of goalkeeper Kelsey Boyce, who has three shutouts this season. Boyce’s play, coupled with the Hawkeyes controlling the ball so much that it makes it hard for the opposition to score, have caused Iowa to not allow more than three balls into the back of the net during all of regulation this season.

Overall

Based on a combination of all these factors, the Hawkeyes have played well but not well enough to earn more than a seven. The pieces are there, but they haven’t put it together for that signature win. They have an opportunity to do so against the Big Ten’s first-place team Friday at Grant Field.

Costanza never got to name his child Seven, but the Hawkeyes can garner a grade higher than the name of his nonexistent kid if they close the 2013 regular season out strong, starting with a win Friday against the Nittany Lions.


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