Iowa heads to Minneapolis


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When Iowa heads to Minneapolis for a tough matchup with the Gophers on Saturday, the Hawkeyes may very well look to the skies for the answer.

No, not quite to the heavens, but close.

The Hawkeyes is a fairly good “in the air team” so far this season. To put it simpler, Iowa has several players — specifically, seniors Melanie Pickert and Anne Marie Thomas, who happen to be pretty good at using their head to move the ball.

Technique and reflexes have quite a bit to do with their success, though simply being able to physically push past opponents also remains huge.

“For us, there’s some kids who are naturally just better in the air — Anne Marie can just jump really high, so that helps,” Pickert said. “It’s hard in corners and stuff, because there’s so many people you have to dodge and they’re grabbing you — last week I got clotheslined.

“Once the ball is kicked, your eyes are just on the ball, and you don’t care what the heck you run into.”

It’s this type of rough-and-tumble battle that the Hawkeyes will have to win in Minneapolis.

Minnesota is known to play tough and recently beat Michigan State and very nearly knocked off Michigan — both top-tier Big Ten teams.

Iowa will have to take advantage of its corner-kicks if it wants to have a chance in this game, and doing that means being good in the air — corners are where the majority of header goals and plays come from.

“Minnesota has a lot of varying corner plays that we have to be aware of, and we have a sort of template that we have a lot of options off of,” Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said. “We got to get ourselves in the right place mentally; Minnesota is a very physical team, very tough to score on.”

To get through that vaunted defense which includes reigning Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year in sophomore Tarah Hobbs, it might take a bit of nifty ball skills to get it in the right position.

In fact, using the head is not just for corner-kicks and scoring but also for getting the ball down the field.

“Throughout the game, any position you’re in, you got to be able to head the ball down at somebody’s feet or off to somebody’s chest,” Thomas said. “Even from a goal kick or anything that comes from the opposite end of the field — you’re trying to flip the ball or bring it down.”

Against Minnesota, the Hawkeyes will pull out move and tactic to get a ball in the net.

“It’s always a good battle with them; it’s usually a 1-goal game and a high-energy game, and it’ll come down to what team wants it more,” Pickert said. “That’s how it is with a lot of the Big Ten games, but in particularly Minnesota, because we match up well with them.

“We got to come in there like we want to win.”

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