July 6, 2015
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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
BY MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s soccer program named Dave DiIanni head coach on May 17th, 2014. Prior to serving as head coach at Iowa, DiIanni had an 11-year head coaching stint at Grand Valley State, winning three Division II national championships.
In his first season with the Hawkeyes, DiIanni led the Hawkeyes to a 14-7-1 overall and 7-5-1 Big Ten record. The seven conference victories ties the program record for Big Ten wins in a single season, and the 14 wins are the second most in school history. After entering the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 5 seed, Iowa posted victories over No. 23 Rutgers and Northwestern to advance to the conference tournament championship game for a second straight season.
Under Dilanni’s guidance, two seniors — Cloe Lacasse and Melanie Pickert — capped their Hawkeye careers with first team All-Big Ten and first team all-region honors. They were the first pair in school history to earn first team all-conference honors in the same season and the first two players to garner first team all-region recognition.
The Hawkeyes finished 2014 with a school-record 14 shutouts in 22 games to rank 20th nationally with a .545 shutout percentage. Iowa’s defense also was in the top 35 in the country in saves percentage (31st, .838) and goals against average (35th, .754).
Academically, the Hawkeyes garnered the NSCAA Team Academic Award for an eighth straight season, and nine soccer student-athletes garnered Academic All-Big Ten honors. Seniors Caitlin Brown and Emily Scott received Scholar All-Region recognition.
DiIanni recently sat down with hawkeyesports.com to reflect on the 2014 season and his long-term goals for the program.
Year 1 always has a unique set of challenges, what do you think will present the biggest challenge in Year 2?
“It was unique getting hired so close to the beginning of the season, so many of the things that we wanted to implement into our program really didn’t come to fruition until the winter and the spring. The biggest thing for us, after a full year, is understanding that when it comes to the student-athletes, playing in the Big Ten at the University of Iowa is a great and exciting commitment. But it takes a certain level of energy, excitement, focus, and commitment to being great as a student, a player, and a person. Those are the areas that we focused on this spring with a very young team. We lost nine seniors, many of whom started their freshman year and went all the way through. They had an unbelievable amount of experience. Sometimes when you lose nine seniors, the student-athletes underneath those seniors don’t grow or flourish just out of the necessity of being in the shadows. So this winter we wanted to have them understand the energy, the commitment, and the level they needed to perform at to be successful.”
What was the first thing you did when camp opened in Year 1, and what will be the first thing you do when camp opens in Year 2?
“The first thing I did was introduce myself and the staff to over half of the team, which is unique in itself. I think the other part was trying to paint a picture as to who we are as a staff, who we are as a program, who we are going to be, and what our goal was in representing the University of Iowa and the women’s soccer program. The other thing I said was that a great program understands the difference between teammate and friend. By that I mean a teammate is supportive through good and bad times, but they hold a standard for one another — not only to themselves, but for each other and with each other. I told them we would be great when we understood the difference and we got very close this spring. I think the message this year will be very similar.”
Last year you had one of the nation’s top ranked defenses. Was that a reflection of the incumbent personnel or your coaching philosophy?
“It was a little bit of both. Looking back at Grand Valley, some years we had the best offensive program in the country and other years we had the best defensive program in the country. At the end of the day, we won our national championships when we were the best defensively. Last season, we (Iowa) had some great players on defense, and the nature of our injuries early in the season transitioned into us being a little more defensive minded. I will always be a defensive-minded coach. I do believe defense wins championships and last year is a great example of that. All the injuries that we took, even that late into the Big Ten tournament, we still found ourselves in the Big Ten Championships because we could defend. We were organized, played as a team, and were committed to one another.”
You mentioned the championship runs at Grand Valley State, and now we’ve seen Iowa advance to the postseason two straight years. What do you do to keep your players motivated from preseason to regular season to postseason and then offseason?
“You have to have players that fight entitlement and complacency. We certainly haven’t arrived; we have had two good years — two of the best years the program has seen — but we still have a long way to go. The players hear that message from us every day. It is about the journey, not the end result. It is about how they conduct themselves off the field, preparing themselves so they can make the best of the practice facilities and training we have to offer. Nutrition, sleep, time management; all of those things translate into success on the field. Players that love what they do are the ones that are able to succeed at this level. They need to push each other every day because that not only makes individuals better, but also it strengthens the team.”
What do you need from the players who are returning?
“We are going to need consistency in their approach to the game and how they live life, and treating this student-athlete experience with the utmost importance — going to class, excelling in the classroom, building positive relationships with the people around them — because they do represent our university and our program. All but four girls on our roster are playing at some league or another this summer. That is exciting. We are very clear that it is almost impossible to be successful in August if you take three months off. We need our best players to be on the field this summer because we don’t have many returning starters. If we can get a little bit better every day and stay healthy we will be ready for the Big Ten part of the season.”
With the change in personnel, are the expectations and goals the same in Year 2 as they were in Year 1?
“The expectations for us are to be ready, be fit, have the right frame of mind, be a good teammate, and be ready to compete. We have a lot of heaving lifting left to do this year and we have a lot to prove. We expect to continue the success that we have had, and we will see that in practice with players who are growing and developing and committing themselves to the time needed to be successful. As far as goals, you always want to be successful at home. We have 12 home games this year, which is a very high number. To be successful at all, you have to win at home. We want to market our program better. We want to get the student body more involved. We have had two very good years back-to-back, and we want them to come out and celebrate the program. I think lastly we want to win. We have had two very good years and we really want to continue that progress and grow the program.”
How would you like to see this program evolve?
“We are working very hard to create a culture and an environment with a very consistent message. We have high expectations as a student, player, and person. That includes level of competitiveness beyond attending practice and just participating; working to create greatness; your moments of success are frequent in both practice and in games; high expectations for one another. Sometimes when you don’t have a culture or great leadership, you have high expectations for yourself but there isn’t accountability for the team. I want to develop leadership that helps our program consistently throughout the years — leaders teaching future leaders so that the culture is player-led and not coach-led. That is when you know you have a culture and a program. Coaches set up the parameters, the system, the training sessions, but it is led by the players that are committing the energies from within. When you have that you have something special.”