Sept. 11, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By BRADY JOHNSON
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s soccer team hasn’t lost a nonconference match in a long, long time… 724 days to be exact.
In that stretch, the Hawkeyes are 17-0-1 and have outscored their opponents 69-11. Iowa got off to its best start in program history last season with an unblemished 9-0-0 mark in nonconference play. Heading into Wednesday’s match against Saint Louis, Iowa is only one victory away from repeating that feat.
“When we schedule those games, it’s all for preparation for the Big Ten schedule,” said assistant coach Nick Florhe. “We have gained what we wanted through those games, and fortunately we’ve been successful for them. It has prepared us for the Big Ten, and it has put us on quite a streak, too.”
The Hawkeyes are the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten, and have a perfect 8-0-0 record this season. Iowa has had a number of highlights along the way this season — defeating both in-state rivals, head coach Ron Rainey’s 150th career victory and winning the Black Knight Classic championship — but the chance to finish another season perfect in nonconference play would mark a special accomplishment.
Yet, each coach and player knows a strong test is just around the corner as Iowa begins Big Ten play this week, which will provide the Hawkeyes with a solid measuring stick. The Big Ten has six teams ranked within the top-50 of TopDraweSoccer.com’s Tournament 64 National College Soccer Rankings.
“The hope is that this will help give us a great start when we get to Big Ten play,” said Florhe. “It has been great to enter Big Ten play with confidence and composure like we have the past two seasons. Right now, we’re not peaking, but we’ve been increasing as we’ve gone through. We’re ready for the strong test the Big Ten will provide.”
The Hawkeyes went 9-0-0 to start 2011’s season, and although they had their second best Big Ten record in program history (5-4-2), the goal this season is to continue to take the program to new heights.
“The experience they learned last year in the Big Ten should propel us this year to have even more success, and hopefully avoid dropping some of those close games this time around,” said Florhe. “I know the players are excited to get into Big Ten play, and I think they are ready to improve upon what they did last season.”
Iowa currently sits in the top position in Big Ten standings, marking the second straight season the Hawkeyes have claimed the top spot in the conference at some point in the season.
The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 27-3, and currently lead the Big Ten in goals (27), points (73), goals per game (3.38), shots (155), goals allowed (3), goals against average (0.38), shutouts (5) and victory margin (+3.0). Freshmen goalkeepers Hannah Clark (4-0-0) and Meg Goodson (3-0-0) rank No. 1 and 2 in the conference in save percentage, while sophomore forward Cloe Lacasse ranks second in the league in points (24), points per game (3.00), goals (10) and goals per game (1.25).
While Iowa is dominating the statistics, it’s the things that don’t show up in the stat book that give Florhe reason to believe the team can continue their success from the nonconference into Big Ten play.
“Our chemistry has gotten better and better,” he said. “The players know where each other will be, they communicate well and our overall chemistry from front to back is pretty strong right now. That’s what we will need in the Big Ten with the type of competition we will see in those matches.”
Iowa and the Billikens will play at 5 p.m. at Hermann Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. The Hawkeyes begin Big Ten play on Sunday, facing Illinois at 2 p.m. at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium in Champaign, Ill., in a match that will be televised live by the BTN.