24: Kaeding kicks Hawkeyes into high gear

Aug. 28, 2009

24 Hawkeyes to Watch: J. Kaeding

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2009-10 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Growing up a corner-kick away from campus, University of Iowa senior soccer captain Jackie Kaeding never flinched before becoming a Hawkeye.

“The University of Iowa has its own little niche,” Kaeding said. “I grew up in Coralville and then going to Iowa City West High School is totally different from downtown. My freshman year I lived in the dorms and met a ton of new people. It’s easy to network and branch out here. Why wouldn’t I want to go to Iowa? It’s awesome.”

Kaeding has been a key component in the steady improvement of the Hawkeye women’s soccer program. As a freshman in 2005, Kaeding and the Hawkeyes finished 3-12-4 with one Big Ten victory. She was out 10 months and missed the entire 2006 campaign with a torn ACL and MCL, an experience she describes as `devastating.’ Iowa won six matches that season — the first with head coach Ron Rainey in charge. Then the Hawkeyes went 8-8-4 with four league victories during Kaeding’s sophomore year in 2007. Last fall Iowa finished 9-11-1 (3-6-1 in the Big Ten) — the most wins in six seasons.

“We’ve been taking small steps the last few years,” Rainey said. “Now we want to make a big jump. We want to get above .500 by quite a bit and we want to pass a couple more teams while keeping three behind us in the Big Ten. To do that will mean our seniors have to do a great job leadership-wise, it will mean our freshmen have to come in and do well, and it will mean our sophomores can’t have any slumps and combine with the juniors who stepped up and did real well.”

A nine-member senior class — one that includes Kaeding — will assume a bulk of the leadership responsibilities. Other seniors are Erica Clausen, Kelsey McCarron, Kim Olsen, Alexandria Seydel, Nicole Slevin, Katie Smeltzer, Kathleen Smokowski and Heather Windsor.

“I think this is going to be one of the best women’s soccer teams at Iowa that a lot of people have seen in a long time,” Kaeding said. “I have high hopes for us. We’re on that ridge right now — we lost (10) games by one goal (in 2008). It’s that little point that we need to get over and we’ll really turn the corner, so I’m excited.”

Iowa was 4-10 in one-goal matches last season, dropping six of its final seven contests by the slimmest of margins.

“The University of Iowa has its own little niche. I grew up in Coralville and then going to Iowa City West High School is totally different from downtown. My freshman year I lived in the dorms and met a ton of new people. It’s easy to network and branch out here. Why wouldn’t I want to go to Iowa? It’s awesome.”
UI senior Jackie Kaeding

During her career Kaeding has played 47 games with five goals and two assists. She scored the game-winner during a 1-0 decision against No. 16 Illinois on Oct. 10, 2008, in Iowa City. Kaeding has played both defender and midfielder and will be counted on in the midfield during her final tour.

“Jackie is a team person,” Rainey said. “She wants to win and we want players that are able to defer their individual stat line for the team and Jackie does that well. Jackie wouldn’t care is she didn’t score a goal all year if it meant us getting to the NCAA tournament.”

One of the pressing issues where seniors are expected to lead is by living a productive lifestyle.

“We need to set a really good example,” Kaeding said. “We need to be responsible for what we do and know that these younger players are watching and are really impressionable.”

The Hawkeyes had nine native Iowans on its roster when camp opened. Returnees Kaeding, Suzy Levett, Kelsey Sandon and Morgan Showalter will be joined by freshmen Gabrielle Ainsworth, Jade Grimm, Jenny Kahler, Katherine Lewis and Rachel Spellerberg.

“We’re excited about the Iowa players and we put a lot of time into the recruiting end with those Iowa players,” Rainey said. “We feel we have some of the best ones that the state has produced the last few years. It creates a buzz around the program, around people in town, around people in eastern Iowa and in the state. Now we want those players that have that pride to play for Iowa — we want all their dreams to come true when they start getting out on the game field this season.”

There will be plenty of opportunities for locals to watch the Hawkeyes in person. Twelve of the 20 Iowa regular-season games are at the Iowa Soccer Complex, including the first three — against Missouri (a 3-2 loss Aug. 21), tonight, Aug. 28, against Montana, and Sunday, Aug. 30, against South Dakota State. Missouri and South Dakota State edged the Hawkeyes, 2-1, last fall.

Kaeding will graduate in December with a degree in journalism and a minor in political science. During the summer she experienced broadcast journalism by completing an internship at a television station in San Diego. Her older brother, Nate, an All-American kicker at Iowa in 2002 and ’03, resides in San Diego and is a member of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers. More than a few Hawkeye fans have inquired about Jackie’s bloodlines.

“It’s human nature to want to have your own individuality,” Kaeding said. “Sometimes it gets a little annoying when somebody says, `you’re Nate Kaeding’s little sister.’ I want to have my own name and do my own stuff, but at the end of the day I’m really proud of him and he deserves everything he has. When somebody makes that connection I’m flattered because he’s family.”

There are similarities between the Kaedings. Both were multi-sport athletes in high school. Now both rely on the strength of their kicking legs for athletic success. The secret to the Kaeding accomplishments just might be a structural deformity of the foot.

“Nate and I both have bunions on our feet and everybody says that’s what helps us kick,” Kaeding said with a laugh.

Rainey sums up Kaeding’s playing style with one word: tenacious.

“When she’s out on the field, she’s giving you everything she has every second she’s out there,” Rainey said. “She’s both tenacious offensively and tenacious defensively.”

Kaeding says that she’s merely being passionate.

“On the field that’s flattering to me,” she said. “I would hope that I’m passionate about what I do. I love playing, so I would hope somebody would say I’m really involved. I have a lot of energy.”