Brown to lead Iowa defense in Big Ten opener


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When senior Caitlin Brown takes the field against Illinois in Iowa’s Big Ten opener tonight, she will be riding a streak of 40-straight full games played.

That’s 3,809 minutes, which includes several overtime games, without being off the field once.
An impressive stat, especially considering that she plays defender, a very active position on the field.

The mental and physical aspect of the position are tough, but Brown is happy making such a significant contribution on the field.

“It’s awesome to be able to play for my teammates and for Iowa; I just try to make the most of the minutes I get,” she said. “Everyone prepares themselves a little differently, but I think during intense matches, it helps to mentally reset and re-engage after each play.”

That mental reset is vital because she is key in Iowa’s defensive play. The Hawkeyes have been decimated by injuries — they have five players out for the season with knee injuries, and the likelihood of Brown coming off the field is slim to none.

For her, that means staying healthy is at the top of her list of priorities.

“I think it’s just about trying to control what you can and doing the little things right — nutrition, sleep, and hydration,” she said. “As student-athletes, there are a lot of resources at our disposal as far as nutrition and recovery that can really go a long way.

“Luck helps, too. Sometimes, injuries are just out of our control.”

The Hawkeyes had quite a bit of luck last season in their impressive run to the Big Ten title game, and they will likely need more if they are going to replicate the feat this season.

While it will be tough for Iowa to get to that stage again, any possible return journey to glory begins with a tough Illinois squad.

The Illini made it all the way to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season, and despite adding 10 new players to the roster, they will still be a tough task to handle.

“Illinois will be a test for us — they have a lot of scoring threats all over the field and are organized defensively,” assistant coach Julie Hanley said. “They’re a great team and very well coached.”

This game will serve as a good indicator of where the Hawkeyes need to improve, and while it is a long Big Ten season, starting off the season with a win would be another step in the right direction for the Dave DiIanni era.

A 5-1 start in nonconference play is one thing, but winning in a tough Big Ten is quite another, and the entire team knows it.

“Everyone is pretty excited to get into conference play; every Big Ten game is a challenge and Illinois is no exception,” Brown said. “It’s a privilege to be able to play for my teammates and school.”

Follow @JordyHansen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa soccer team.

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