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Hawks to take on Ohio State

BY JORDAN HANSEN | OCTOBER 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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When the Iowa soccer team kicks off in Columbus this evening, it will face an Ohio State squad that is not having the season that the Buckeyes had envisioned.

Ranked in the preseason as the sixth best team in the conference and looking to build on an NCAA Tournament bid, Ohio State was supposed to be near the top of the Big Ten.

However, it has not lived up to expectations, and it sits near the bottom of the conference standings. A portion of this is because of early season injuries to several Buckeyes, including one to star forward Nichelle Prince, who has only recently returned to the lineup.

“[Ohio State] played half the year without their best player, which would be like us playing without Cloe [Lacasse],” said Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni. “They’re just now starting to get some chemistry, much like us bringing back our injured players.”

As DiIanni noted, the Hawkeyes have been hit with numerous injuries over the course of the season but have still willed themselves to an 11-4-1 record — a mark that owes much to a defense that has been as tenacious and cohesive as a pack of wolves.

Ohio State’s defense does not nearly spark that level of praise. In fact, that is one of the major reasons for its 5-8-3 record. The Buckeyes have statistically one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten and have given up 29 goals this season, which ranks last in the conference.

“They are a very athletic team, but I think in turn we are a very athletic team as well — we have a lot of speed up top, and our backline is very strong, so we’ll force them into errors,” sophomore Bri Toelle said. “I think we’ll match up pretty well, and we’re just going to have to be the same team for 90 minutes.”

If the Hawkeyes can keep the pressure on a relatively inexperienced Buckeye squad, they should be able to get a coveted seventh win in Big Ten play.

For what it’s worth, the road team is 10-6-1 all-time in the series, but there is certainly no expectation in Iowa’s camp of Ohio State lying down, because the Buckeyes are still mathematically alive for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

“It’s going to be a high-energy game, they’re good athletes, and it’s always that way with that team,” senior Melanie Pickert. “It’s an Ohio State team that is going to keep coming after you and the way they play, they’re dynamic — but not flashy.

“They put in the work, and that’s what their program is based on.”

While Ohio State will be closer to full strength than it has been all season, expect DiIanni to have his team amped for a game that could help determine Iowa’s positioning in the Big Ten Tournament.

A huge matchup with No. 7 Penn State looms Oct. 26, but for at least now, the team is taking things one match at a time.

“We defend against anybody well, we’re organized and disciplined — as games get tighter and more important, teams get tighter,” said DiIanni. “You have to prove that you can break teams down and I think we can do that; there’s no doubt in my mind we can.”

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


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