Nov. 8, 2010
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By ADAM MEIER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It would be difficult to come up with a better story-book ending than what happened at the Iowa Soccer Complex for Senior Day on Friday.
“I’m so glad we ended the season in a win because this team really deserved it,” said UI head coach Ron Rainey after the Hawkeye’s 3-2 comeback victory against Purdue. “This will be a good story to tell about the ending of the 2010 season.”
Down 2-0 with just over 25 minutes left to play in the season finalé, the Hawkeye’s stormed back using a combination of set plays, heart, and passion en route to three consecutive goals and their first Big Ten win of the season.
Being the last game for the senior group gave the team added motivation going into the second half.
“We told the team at half that we only have 45 minutes left to play together,” Rainey said. “We can’t leave anything out on the field.”
If you saw the effort the team gave Friday night you would see they left nothing on the field.
This magical comeback will be one of the memorable moments for the group of six seniors who played their final game in the black and gold. Kali Feiereisel, Amanda Martin, Keli McLaughlin, Jenna Aleo, Mandy Heimann and Stephanie Swanson make up a tightly-knit group of seniors who helped bring respect to the Iowa soccer program.
“These seniors came in here and took a chance when the program was a little bit down,” Rainey said. “They’ve had some highs and lows and we couldn’t have had the success we’ve had without the six seniors we’re losing.”
“I’m so glad we ended the season in a win because this team really deserved it. This will be a good story to tell about the ending of the 2010 season.”
UI head coach
One of those seniors in particular gave the team an added boost that had been missing for most of the season. Last year’s leading scorer, Keli McLaughlin, had missed a good portion of the season while fighting injury. Her return to the lineup for the last part of the season helped the team spread the field and become more explosive offensively.
“Keli can really run and we definitely missed her when she was out,” Rainey said. “It’s never easy when your leading scorer goes down, but it has been great to see her out there these last three or four games.”
After the game McLaughlin reflected on playing her final game as a Hawkeye.
“It’s a great feeling knowing we finished that game as a team,” the Alsip, Ill., native said. “It was all 24 of us, the four coaches, the trainers; it was everybody giving effort tonight.”
McLaughlin and her fellow seniors have been together through hard times and good times of this young program, and have remained close throughout.
“Nobody dropped out — we’re all really tight,” McLaughlin said. “We all live in the same house so we all have a strong relationship and I think it shows on and off the field. Being part of a program that has built itself and to say that we were the start of that build feels really good. And just to know that we set the tone for the future of the program is reassuring.”
Rainey has been around this group of seniors from the time they were freshmen until their final game against Purdue and he has seen growth.
“You see them mature as players and mature as people, too. This is a group that has improved athletically and is awesome academically,” said Rainey. “They’ll represent Iowa well when they take their next steps in life.”
As far as the soccer team’s next step, Rainey had a message for them after the game.
“I think that we raise the stakes this offseason and we work that much harder; we’re that much more intense with each other and we hold each other accountable to get even better in the offseason,” Rainey proclaimed. “What we have to do is to press on and get better and better over these next couple years so that all the work this senior group did doesn’t go to waste.”
After Friday’s victory there was an outburst of emotion as the Hawkeyes notched a much-deserved conference win.
“There are a lot more tears of joy than tears of sadness,” Rainey said. “What a way to end a career.”
Now it is up to the non-senior members of the team to take the helm for the program’s future.
When asked if she had any advice for the younger members of the team, a teary McLaughlin replied, “Play every game like it’s your last, because when the last one comes, you don’t want it to end.”
If they play every game like they did Friday, the program will be in good shape.