Nov. 19, 2008
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IOWA CITY, IA – The University of Iowa soccer team looked at the 2008 season as an opportunity to shed the label of a rebuilding program and break out. Not only did they score more goals than the year before, but the Hawkeyes won the most matches since 2002 and qualified for the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season.
Iowa’s season culminated Nov. 6 with a 2-1 loss in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament to top-seeded and eventual tournament champion Penn State. The Hawkeyes finished the 2008 campaign with a record of 9-11-1, including a mark of 3-6-1 in the Big Ten, with wins over Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. Iowa’s nine wins are the most since 2002, and seven of those wins came at the UI Soccer Complex (most home wins in school history).
After having an experienced team comprised of nine seniors in 2007, Head Coach Ron Rainey and the Hawkeyes relied heavily upon the underclassmen this season. Seven of Iowa’s eleven starters this season were freshmen or sophomores.
“Taking into account that we had a lot of young players on the field, I think the season was a huge success,” said Rainey. “Other teams in our conference had more experience than us, but we are very excited about the foundation they have started to build for our program.”
The Hawkeyes’ improvement on the field can be attributed to the growth of several sophomores and the immediate impacts of a few freshmen sensations. After scoring one goal as a freshman last season, speedy sophomore Keli McLaughlin became a force in the open field, scoring seven goals and dishing out six assists. Defenders Mandy Heimann and second team all-Big Ten selection Jenna Aleo started every match this season for the Hawkeyes, helping contribute to a stern Iowa defense that allowed only 24 goals. Kali Feiereisel showed signs of promise in goal, corralling 25 saves and allowing only seven goals before suffering a season-ending arm injury Oct. 5 against North Dakota State.
“Their growth really started last spring,” Rainey said. “They were able to do a lot of positive things for us, and just having another year under their belt will help them for next year. They must continue to improve, though, because our team is only going to become more competitive.”
Several freshmen also stood out in just their first year in Iowa City. Forward Alyssa Cosnek was Iowa’s top scoring threat, netting nine goals, good for fifth in the Big Ten. Cedar Rapids native Morgan Showalter was the team’s leader in assists (nine) and Rachel Blakesley started in every match as a defender. Goalkeeper Emily Moran earned valuable playing experience during the Big Ten slate, and saw action in every match this season, finishing with 74 saves. Both Moran and Showalter were named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team.
“They are talented players,” said Rainey. “We will really look back this spring and see how far they have come in their first full season, but we are pleased that they were able to come in and make an immediate impact.”
Bidding farewell are two seniors, California natives Stephanie Hyink and Kelsey Shaw, who have combined for 24 goals and 16 assists during their four years at Iowa. Midfielder Alexandria Seydel (2 G, 2 A) and defender Jackie Kaeding (1 G) will return next season and are expected to be Iowa’s senior leaders. Seydel has provided a steady presence in the midfield for the last three seasons and Kaeding thrived as a defender this season after spending her first two as a midfielder.
With just under three months until National Signing Day, Rainey and the rest of his coaching staff are in the process of putting the finishing touches on another strong recruiting class. And after seeing statistical improvement in each season under his guidance, Rainey believes the pieces are in place for the Hawkeyes to make another significant jump in 2009.
“Like every other team in our league, we want to take a big jump,” said Rainey. “We need to build on the success we’ve had this season and take it one step further. We want to take a huge step. We want to shock people.”