Hawkeye soccer looks for a spring in its leap

Aug. 18, 2009

Media Day Photo Gallery (Aug. 18) | Video interview with S. Meridith

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s soccer program stressed Tuesday during media day that a few adjustments and taking the next step could put it on the map as one of the elite teams in the nation.

“The next step is we want to keep moving forward,” UI head coach Ron Rainey said. “We have taken logical steps forward and every coach wants to have one of those breakout seasons. We have players that can do that and we play a sport that if you get the ball bouncing your way, you can really make some noise. We are going to take a logical step forward this year — we want to take a leap.”

After enjoying its best season since 2002, the Hawkeye soccer team progressed in 2008, but a few adjustments in 2009 could put them in the nation’s top 25. After all, Iowa went 9-11-1 last season and 10 of those losses were by one goal. The Hawkeyes went down to the wire with No. 16 Illinois (who they beat 1-0) and No. 25 Minnesota (a 1-0 defeat).

“We were so close in so many games last year that we have potential to be even better than we were last year,” said sophomore forward Morgan Showalter.

“We think it’s an attainable goal to make it to the NCAA Tournament,” senior midfielder Jackie Kaeding said. “Our goal is to definitely win a majority of our games in the conference and I think there are a lot of teams that we can beat. We had a lot of games that we tied or lost by one goal that we should have won.”

Iowa was in every game and the Hawkeyes know that some alterations and a little bit of hard work could pay dividends this year. Last year the team was led in different categories by mostly underclassman. Freshman Alyssa Cosnek led the team in goals with nine, while Showalter led the team with nine assists. Sophomore Keli McLaughlin led the team in points (20), scoring seven goals and six assists.

The team has even more experience this year as Cosnek and Showalter will be sophomores and McLaughlin will be a junior. They will be led by senior co-captains Jackie Kaeding and Heather Windsor, who both know what the team is capable of.

“To get to the next step, I think a lot of it has to do with attitude,” Kaeding said. “It is a little bit cliché, but you have to expect to win and I think that was something we weren’t used to when I came in as a freshman and even as a sophomore people were just used to losing and fans were used to us losing. Now I think we have shown that we have the talent and we have the heart to do it.”

“I think it (the experience) helps a lot with getting to know the players on the team and playing with them every game last year,” Showalter said. “You really see each other progress over the summer and coming into the fall you see how they play and what things have changed. Then you learn to change what you need to change.”

Last season was nothing short of a confidence-boost, and the Hawkeyes are determined to turn the one-goal losses into one-goal victories. Having more poise along with leadership and experience will help the Hawkeyes progress even more in 2009.

“I am really determined to make my mark and have our team make our mark in the conference this season,” Kaeding said.