By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa soccer team is scoring at a rapid pace in 2016.
Ten different players have found the back of the net for a Hawkeye team that has a Big Ten-best 18 goals and 54 points in six contests. Last season, Iowa scored 20 goals during the entire 18-game season.
The offensive resurgence comes from the depth the team can showcase across the board.
“We have so many quick strikers, we can get people in and out when we need breaks,” said sophomore Rose Ripslinger. “We can sub different players in and they can make a difference. We have depth everywhere.”
Senior forward Bri Toelle and junior midfielder Karly Stuenkel are leading the team with four goals apiece. Stuenkel has a team-best 11 points.
Goals have been scored by the Iowa forwards, midfielders, and defenders. The team has gotten production from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen. Seven Hawkeyes have netted their first career goals this season.
“We get everyone chances to score,” said freshman Natalie Winters. “It’s awesome seeing everyone contribute and score when they get their opportunity.”
UI head coach Dave DiIanni believes in getting everyone involved. It’s a philosophy he followed while winning three NCAA Division II Championships at Grand Valley State.
“All the teams I have had that have been successful are ones that have variety across the board,” said DiIanni. “It’s having seven, eight, or nine players that can score. I’d rather have nine players with five goals than having two with 15.
“That gives me a lot of opportunities to try things in the lineup and it’s creating competition on our roster in terms of training at a high level. People want to start and they want to contribute off the bench; that’s giving us depth. We haven’t had this kind of depth in my three years here.”
After falling, 5-3, at Creighton in the season-opener, the Hawkeyes have surged. Iowa has won five straight contests to improve to 5-1-0, outscoring the opposition, 15-5. The winning streak is the longest of DiIanni’s Iowa tenure and the team’s longest since 2013.
Last weekend, Iowa rolled to consecutive wins over Colorado State (4-1) and SIU Edwardsville (5-1) with a nine-goal outburst. Five different players scored, including Ripslinger, who tallied the first two goals of her career.
It was the culmination of a long journey back for Ripslinger, who suffered a knee injury in 2014 and played sparingly last season while working her way back to 100 percent.
“(Scoring that first goal) was emotional,” said Ripslinger, who scored 118 goals during her prep career at Davenport Assumption (Iowa) High School. “I stood back at the line and heard my family and supporters cheering for me. I cried a little bit; it was a surreal moment. It is one I have been waiting all summer for.
“Hopefully that can open the flood gates and I can be someone our team can rely on to score every game and help this team win games.”
She can be one of Iowa’s goal-scoring Army.