Iowa soccer preps for No. 4 Penn State


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The Iowa soccer team heads into its three final games of the regular season with a record of 11-4-1 overall and a Big Ten record of 3-4-1.

Kicking off Iowa’s home stand is a matchup with No. 4 Penn State — one that could prove to be the Hawkeyes’ toughest game of the season.

The matchup with Penn State

Penn State enters the matchup against Iowa with a 12-3-1 overall record, 6-2 in conference play. While there’s an argument that Iowa has played a team with the caliber of Penn State in No. 7 Michigan, it’s hard to deny that Penn State will be, by far, the best offensive team Iowa has faced all season.

“Everybody is excited about the opportunity and the challenge,” Iowa head coach Ron Rainey said. “We know that this weekend we have to play our best soccer of the year. Penn State has so many ways it can attack you.”

Penn State enters this match averaging 3 goals per game — best among Big Ten teams. This is the exact opposite style of play of the Hawkeyes, who average 1.62 goals per game.

Leading this charge for Penn State is senior Maya Hayes, who, in 16 games, has scored 16 goals. She is second in the Big Ten.

“Maya is really good,” Rainey said. “We just have to make sure where all their players are at all times and be ready to play really good one-on-one defense against them.”

To put more perspective on Hayes dominance, consider her efficiency: She has shot 56 times on the season. As mentioned earlier, Hayes has converted 16 of those attempts into scores, which means she’s scoring 1 goal on just about every four shots she takes — 28.6 percent, to be exact.

Iowa’s defense

The good news for Iowa is its defense this season has been extremely effective in keeping opponents’ shot totals at a minimum. Iowa’s opponents currently are shooting at a rate of 10.3 times per game.

“I think we need to play our best soccer [of the season],” midfielder Alex Melin said. “I think we can come out on top.”

This aspect of Iowa’s game will certainly be tested — Penn State shoots 18.6 times per match this season.

Coming home

More good news for the Hawkeyes is that Iowa will finally play on its own field. When Iowa takes the field against Penn State, it will have been 19 days since the last home game — Iowa defeated Michigan State on Oct. 6.

The Hawkeyes’ previous home game was Sept. 22, and they have played six of their last seven games on the road, where they went 3-3-1.

“It nice to have our last three games at home,” senior Ashley Catrell said. “We don’t have to worry about traveling, about what the time bus leaves. Just being on our home field will hopefully bring us some wins this weekend.”

Coming home might help the Hawkeyes not just in terms of familiarity but also statistically. Iowa has posted a road record of 4-3-1 while sporting a 6-1-0 mark in Iowa City.

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