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 JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The last time the University of Iowa soccer team competed in the Big Ten Tournament as a No. 8 seed, the Hawkeyes advanced to the tournament title game.
Iowa will get another crack at Cinderella, when it travels to Columbus, Ohio, for a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal contest against top-seeded and 16th-ranked Ohio State. Game time is set for 3 p.m. (CT).
“This has been a long time coming for not only the school, but the program and senior class,” said Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni. “For them to come in as freshmen and play in the Big Ten Tournament championship game was a high bar to set.
“The last couple of years was a challenge for everybody, but this result is a credit to the hard work our players have put in the last couple of years.”
The Hawkeyes last played in the Big Ten Tournament in 2014, when the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes avenged a regular-season loss to fourth-seeded Rutgers in the quarterfinals. Iowa hopes to follow that script Sunday.
“We lost to Ohio State during the regular season,” said senior Corey Burns of the Hawkeyes’ 2-0 Sept. 24 setback. “It’s hard to be a team twice. I am looking forward to getting that second shot at Ohio State. The first meeting was one of our “not so good” games in the Big Ten.”
The fact Iowa is back in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in three seasons is a testament to the team’s perseverance. The Hawkeyes started their Big Ten season with a 1-3-1 record before going 4-2-1 the rest of the way.
“This group has been resilient when they got knocked down,” said DiIanni.”They always came back the next day and performed.”
That was evident following a 3-0 setback to Wisconsin in their Oct. 21 home finale. Four days later, the Hawkeyes prevailed with a 1-0 victory in a “must win” game at Illinois to keep their tournament hopes alive.
“It seems surreal to be in the tournament because of how the Big Ten season started for us,” said Burns. “After we lost to Wisconsin (on Oct. 21), we knew we had to win at Illinois. We won and hoped the soccer gods were on our side.
“We are so excited to be back in the field. We know we deserved to make it after the last couple of years of not being in the top half of the Big Ten.”
Now the Hawkeyes are focusing on making a tournament run to extend their season. Iowa must run the table over the next eight days to keep its season alive to qualify for NCAA Tournament play.
“We have one goal and that’s to win and get into the NCAA Tournament,” said DiIanni.
Burns isn’t discounting the Hawkeyes’ chances. She says Iowa isn’t necessarily entering the tournament as an underdog, but…
“As the eighth seed, we’re ready for a Cinderella story to happen,” said Burns. “We need to prepare well and do everything we can Sunday. It’s the one game we have to focus on right now.”
Sunday’s quarterfinal matchup will be streamed live on BTN Plus on BTN2Go. Live statistics will be available on hawkeyesports.com and live in-game updates will on Twitter.com/HawkeyeSoccer.