By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa soccer team’s 2-1 road win at No. 22 Nebraska was a season-changing victory, but head coach Dave DiIanni doesn’t want it to be the end all.
“The first thing we talked about is that win not being the peak of our season,” said DiIanni. “It’s big for us to build momentum and not lose sight of why we were successful at Nebraska to begin with. It is because for 90 minutes we stayed mentally and physically engaged and that was important.”
Iowa’s win at Nebraska was its first in 12 games in the all-time series. It was the highest ranked team the Hawkeyes have defeated since the 2014 season — a 1-0 win over 20th-ranked Penn State.
“Coming back from Ohio State and Penn State, we needed something,” said junior Devin Burns, who scored the game-winning goal in Lincoln. “It was a rivalry weekend and we were excited.
“It showed we have the potential to be a good team and we can play with some of the best teams in the Big Ten.”
The Hawkeyes are firmly in the Big Ten Tournament hunt with four games remaining in the regular season. Iowa is currently tied for eighth place with seven points, three other teams are tied for seventh with nine points.
The top eight teams qualify for the Big Ten Tournament.
“(The team) has an appreciation that they have put themselves in the mix to be in contention,” said DiIanni. “When you get to the end of the season with two weeks to go, you want to be in the mix.
“(The win at Nebraska) put us in that position and if we get another three points against Michigan State, then it becomes a reality.”
Iowa hosts Michigan State (0-5-2, 2 points) on Friday at 7 p.m. (CT) at the Iowa Soccer Complex and Michigan (3-4-0, 9 points) on Sunday. The Hawkeyes are 5-0-2 at home this season.
“We have been pretty good at home this season,” said DiIanni. “Playing at home won’t be enough. We need to continue doing the things we have been doing all year.”
DiIanni believes the Nebraska game is a proof that the team and program is moving in the right direction.
“We have a lot of would have, should haves this season, but the win is an affirmation to the process we’re committed to is working,” he said. “We’re only as good as our last game, so we have to perform Friday against Michigan State.”
“This weekend is big,” said redshirt junior Kaleigh Haus. “It decides where we’re going to go the rest of the season. We need to get the wins to throw us into the mix of the top eight.”
Friday’s game is Millitary Appreciation Night, while Sunday’s contest is the annual pink game. The first 200 fans will receive pink poms.