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 — For the youth-filled University of Iowa soccer team, the spring season provided critical opportunities to mature both physically and mentally.
“The spring was successful as a whole,” said UI head soccer coach Dave DiIanni. “We are a young program and this was the first spring season for a lot of our players. A lot of people think that the results in the spring don’t matter, but for us, specifically after the year we had in the fall, they do. The focus in the spring is often on individuals, but for us, it was much more about the program.
“We weren’t happy with how we finished in the fall and we took the time to recognize why we finished that way. We realized our commitment level and competitive nature was not strong enough. The message to the team this spring was to raise its expectations, not only for themselves but for each other. We focused on increasing the level of accountability to each other, increasing the commitment to the program, and wanting to be more competitive in nature.”
Despite the weariness from the fall season and a full workload of classes, the team bloomed in spring action.
“For the underclassmen, we saw a lot of growth in the spring,” said DiIanni. “Sometimes when you play a lot in the fall as an underclassman, you tend to nose dive in the spring because physically and mentally you are more fatigued. I was happy with how our team handled themselves, but I know there is a lot more potential to be reached.”
In order to be successful for the duration of the season, the Hawkeyes have placed a great emphasis on physical strength and overall health.
“In order to be successful we need to be healthy and we need to be elite fit,” said DiIanni. “Neither of which we have had a lot of success with in the past, but it is something our kids are able to do. If we can accomplish those things, I know we have the ability to be very successful come fall.
“Our fitness level has improved since the fall and that is important when you are talking about the game of soccer; especially at the Big Ten level. They have taken ownership over their personal fitness because it is something they can control and I have been impressed. We play a better brand of soccer now. We are better on the ball, a little more technical, and have a better understanding of the tactical elements of the game.”
The Hawkeyes’ growth was apparent based off the team’s 6-2-1 spring record, but the team’s 4-0 loss at Kansas in the spring finale proved to be the most beneficial to their progress.
“We won a lot of games this spring,” said DiIanni. “We are doing our best to cherish every win that we earn and take the time to internally celebrate the victories. But the most beneficial game of the spring was against Kansas. It helped our team understand that we had a good spring and we made progress, but at the end of the day, we were never really in the game against Kansas. That is a team we have to show up against in the fall. It put into perspective the strides we still need to make.”
With a strong core of returnees and a nationally ranked recruiting class joining the program in the fall, the Hawkeyes continued improvement is inevitable.
“We have a lot of strong players coming in this fall,” said DiIanni. “The recruiting class was ranked among the top 30 in the nation. I think competition for playing time is going to be aggressive. When you have that competition, you’re going to have some great things come out of your team. You have the opportunity to be surprised by a lot of people and we hope that happens for us this fall.”