Bend-but-don't break: Soccer style

Sept. 13, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa — You’ve heard University of Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker stress a bend-but-don’t-break philosophy with the football Hawkeyes, and now UI soccer coach Ron Rainey is seeing comparable results with a similar way of thinking.

“We’ve talked about simple defending,” said Rainey. “It’s sort of like Norm Parker’s defense — we tell our players about trying to put pressure on the ball; if we can’t pressure the ball, we want to drop off so teams can’t possess the ball behind our defense. When you get behind the defense in soccer, that’s when you give up scoring chances.”

Hawkeye soccer opponents have found few opportunities to score in the last six matches. During that span, Iowa is 6-0 with 17 goals, while allowing just one — with 42 seconds remaining in a lopsided 3-1 victory against Davidson on Sunday in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

“We’re trying to talk to our kids about not being so aggressive that they allow attacking chances,” Rainey said.

Iowa is eighth out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring defense, allowing seven points per game; the Hawkeyes are ninth in total defense (216 yards per game). That mentality and execution has rubbed off on the Iowa soccer program.

The Hawkeyes have been unstoppable since opening the season with a 2-0 setback at home to DePaul on Aug. 20. Iowa went 2-0 at the Iowa Tournament, beating Northern Illinois (2-0) and Central Michigan (1-0) before winning four straight matches away from Iowa City — 3-0 at Loyola (Chicago), 6-0 at Northern Iowa, 2-0 at College of Charleston and 3-1 against Davidson.

“What’s really been nice for our players is that they’ve done a good job on the road and getting acclimated to their surroundings,” Rainey said. “This week we play at Iowa State and Nebraska and we’ll be excited if we can get some of these same results against those programs. We do have a little bit of confidence on the road right now which is nice to see.”

Iowa plays at Iowa State (5-1-2) on Friday and at Nebraska (5-2) on Sunday.

“We’ve been trying to show the players on film, `Hey, here’s some nice things that we’re doing, but here are some things that might not work as we play some of the opponents that we have coming up,” Rainey said. “We feel they’re taking that to heart and putting it into training to get a little bit better each week. The kids are getting excited about playing opponents like Iowa State, Nebraska and then starting out the Big Ten season.”

Hawkeye keeper Emily Moran has four shutouts and a 0.30 goals against average. She averages 3.7 saves per outing. On offense, Iowa has received scoring contributions in the form of goals or assists from 12 different Hawkeyes. Freshman Leah DeMoss is the current points leader with nine (three goals, three assists), followed by sophomores Dana Dalrymple (three goals, two assists) and Jade Grimm (two goals, four assists) with eight points and junior Alyssa Cosnek (three goals, one assist) with seven.

“It has been nice to see all the different people scoring and getting assists for us,” Rainey said. “We have 10 people who have scored goals which is neat when you have some different options in the attack.”

Iowa has been attacking in combinations, Rainey said, especially later in games. The Hawkeyes have outscored their first seven foes 11-2 during second halves of matches.

During the Rainey era that began in 2006, Iowa went on another six-match winning streak in 2007 (eight straight matches without a loss) and last season the Hawkeyes won five in a row during a 7-2 start.

To watch the Sept. 13 episode of This Week ‘On Iowa,’ click HERE.