By JAMES ALLAN
LAWRENCE, Kan. — There was fresh air, excitement, and a quiet confidence when the University of Iowa soccer team took the field at Rock Chalk Park leading into the program’s second NCAA Tournament game in its history.
“We haven’t been outside in a couple of weeks, so it was about getting them out to breathe in the fresh air and get a little nervousness out of them,” said DiIanni, who has guided the Hawkeyes to a school-record tying 15 victories in 2019.
“This is the first time this whole group has been in the NCAA Tournament, but they were sharp, composed, and we had a good time.”
The Hawkeyes will face third-seeded Kansas — the Big 12 Tournament champion — on Saturday at 5 p.m. (CT). The game will be streamed on ESPN3.
“We’re happy to still be competing,” said senior Natalie Winters, a second-team All-Big Ten selection. “We’re excited to come out, compete, and try to make more history.”
Iowa enters the NCAA Tournament with confidence, courtesy of its 15-win regular season. That includes a road resume with victories over NCAA qualifiers NC State and Notre Dame and a road draw at Wisconsin.
“We have 13 seniors that have been around for quite a while that have played in a lot of venues and they have a lot of experiences with results,” said DiIanni. “They want to keep playing as long as possible and they’re physically and mentally strong right now.”
DiIanni wants the Hawkeyes to play with confidence just like they have 20 times this season.
“We talk about this being just another game,” he said. “The venue is different, but we have talked a lot about being excited about being in the tournament and creating a legacy for themselves and the program.”
To do that, DiIanni wants to see his team attack and don’t overthink the process.
“The teams that have been successful in the NCAA Tournament, in my experiences, are the ones that are the aggressors, are competitive, and don’t overthink the process other than going out and just competing and playing,” said DiIanni.
“We have done that the last two weeks and all year. Kansas is a good team, but we think it’s going to be a good game tomorrow.”
From player one to 36, senior Devin Burns says the Hawkeyes are connected and invested in one another.
“We’re excited to be here and keep playing with each other,” said Burns. “We’re ready to come out and play the best we can.”