Commentary: Postseason play looms large for Iowa soccer


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“We want to make noise in the Big Ten.”

It was a simple statement by Iowa soccer head coach Ron Rainey at the team’s media day.

Despite its simplicity, the quote said a lot about Iowa soccer. No longer was the team satisfied with just making the Big Ten tournament. Now, the expectation was to win.

Over the past few years, the Hawkeyes have found no problem in having success in the regular season. But where Rainey’s Hawkeyes have failed to progress is in the Big Ten tournament.

While it’s hard to hinge a team’s success on its play in a single tournament, this year’s Hawkeyes will likely be judged on how they perform in this year’s Big Ten Tournament.

The only Big Ten Tournament match in the program’s history that didn’t result in an official loss was in 2011. That year, the Hawkeyes forced a 0-0 draw with Michigan State but lost in a penalty shootout.

Other than that, the Hawkeyes have never advanced to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. Overall, they are 0-6-1 in these games.

The Hawkeyes’ schedule for the tournament is anything but favorable. Of the seven teams that advanced to the tournament, Iowa went 2-4-1 against them. However, this record can be deceiving, because all of Iowa’s conference games were decided by 1 goal except for an Oct. 27 matchup against Ohio State that the Hawkeyes lost 3-1.

The Hawks’ first game in the tournament will be against No. 2 seed Michigan. Nationally, Michigan is ranked eighth.

Despite the reputation that the Wolverines bring to the match, if Iowa competes as it did in its last game with Michigan, it should prove to be a competitive game.

On Sept. 22, Michigan defeated Iowa, 2-1. The game was Iowa’s first Big Ten match of the season. Interestingly enough, Iowa outshot the Wolverines 12 to 7 and, other than the score, outplayed Michigan in almost every aspect of the match.

That Iowa scored in this match is an accomplishment in itself. Its lone goal made Iowa one of five teams to score a goal against Michigan in Big Ten play this season.

If the Hawkeyes can pull off the upset, then they will play either Penn State or Wisconsin.

Without looking too far ahead, there are reasons for the Hawkeyes to be optimistic about their chances.

The first reason is the recent play of junior forward Cloe Lacasse. While Lacasse has been a threat to score all season — or at least create scoring opportunities, it hasn’t been until recently that she has been able to convert those opportunities.

In her last three games, Lacasse has scored three times. This is a great sign for the Hawkeyes, because when she scores, it puts less pressure on Iowa’s defense to post a shutout.

The second reason is Iowa’s defensive success this season. While it has had periods of struggling, the Hawkeyes’ defense has consistently been among the most dominant in the Big Ten.

This enables the Hawkeyes to stick with any team, no matter the caliber. Their defensive tendency to limit their opponent’s shots certainly helps with this, because fewer shots often equal fewer goals.

Looking at the big picture, the road for the Hawkeyes will be anything but easy. But if this season has proven anything, it’s that the Hawkeyes can be defeated by anyone but can also beat anyone.

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