April 11, 2013
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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 — Even now during the midst of its spring exhibition season, the University of Iowa women’s soccer team won’t lighten its grip on the nonconference opposition.
The Hawkeyes are out of the gates with a 3-0-1 record this spring and are yet to concede a goal. That start ought to sound familiar to fans after Iowa finished 9-0-0 in nonconference play in the fall and outscored its opponents 30-3. The Hawkeyes finished the past two regular seasons without a single nonconference loss, and are on pace to follow suit this spring in exhibition play.
Keeping an undefeated record is fine with UI head coach Ron Rainey, but his attention lies elsewhere. The spring season is all about developing an identity and constant improvement after each practice for the seventh-year head coach.
“This is a time to develop an identity as a group and have people step into leadership roles,” said Rainey. “It’s been good to have these solid results in the spring, but it has been better to see how we’ve been able to play and focus on constant improvement because that’s what we need to see during this period.”
“We’ve earned the right over the past two years to ask ourselves what is our next step to be an NCAA Tournament team. We still have to put in all that work physically, mentally and tactically, but we are building toward that.”
UI head coach Ron Rainey
Iowa has set the standards high this spring, which has become evident in its play. The Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 10-0 with goals from seven different players. Iowa has faced two opponents that reached the NCAA Championships last fall, and will face a third this Saturday.
The Hawkeyes opened spring competition with convincing victories over Drake (5-0) and Missouri (3-0) before settling for a scoreless draw against Notre Dame. In Iowa’s last contest, the Hawkeyes blanked IPFW, 2-0.
“One thing we’ve talked about this spring is really challenging each other and holding each other to a really high standard,” said Rainey, Iowa’s all-time winningest head coach. “We want our players to not let anybody rest and always make high demands from each other. It hasn’t been perfect, and it’s something we need to keep working on, but we’ve seen signs from this team on and off the field that have been really good.”
Iowa notched 13 victories in 2011 and 12 last season — capped by a pair of trips to the Big Ten Tournament — and have rewritten the Hawkeye record book. After providing the program’s top-two winningest seasons in back-to-back campaigns, setting the standard higher comes with the territory of becoming a proven club.
“We’ve earned the right over the past two years to ask ourselves what is our next step to be an NCAA Tournament team,” said Rainey. “We still have to put in all that work physically, mentally and tactically, but we are building toward that.”
Junior Ashley Catrell has been a bright spot for the Hawkeyes this spring, scoring four goals and netting a brace against IPFW. The Overland Park, Kan., native scored seven goals last season. Iowa’s back line and goalkeeping rotation have proven just as reliable as they were in the fall with an active shutout streak of 360 minutes. Newcomers to the lineup have also provided the Hawkeyes, who will be looking to replace six seniors, with positives in exhibition action.
The Hawkeyes are hoping that the bright spots developing in exhibition play will add up to a team capable of reaching the NCAA Championships in the fall — Iowa’s ultimate goal. For Rainey, it comes down to taking it one obstacle at a time.
“We can’t skip any steps in the process,” he said. “We have two really big weekends coming up and if we put up results like we have the last two or three weekends, we have the right to be excited. August is still a long ways away, so it all comes down to focusing on getting better each time out.”
Iowa will compete at home one final time this spring, hosting NCAA Championship qualifier Marquette at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Saturday. First touch is set for 1 p.m. (CT). Iowa closes its exhibition season the following week at the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge hosted by Iowa State in Ames, facing the Cyclones and Kansas.