Practicing to practice


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When Iowa senior Spencer Nash finishes school in December, he’ll leave behind a women’s soccer team that has been a huge part of his life for the last four years.

No, he’s not a coach, assistant, or manager. Nor is he affiliated with the team in any sort of official way. He doesn’t receive a scholarship or any special recognition.

He’s a practice player, someone who loves the game in such a way that simply playing for the Iowa club soccer team is not enough to satisfy his craving to play.

“I really enjoy playing so any time I get the chance to I’ll get out and do it — playing on the women’s soccer field is like nothing else around,” Nash said. “It’s such a competitive level here that it’s not even comparable to club, so that’s nice.”

Nash played soccer at Iowa City West and got asked to play club by some of his former teammates his freshman year of college.

“I knew a couple guys from club that were doing the practice squad and they asked me during the summer when I was playing if I would be interested in practicing with the girls,” Nash said. “I said I would three years ago and I’ve kept doing it since then.”

Nash is not the only club player to play with the women’s team, as anywhere between one and six club players participate.

Their contributions have been more critical than ever this year, as the women’s soccer team has had some bad luck when it comes to injuries.

“We’ve been blessed to have these guys not only because of the amount of injuries that we’ve had this year,” head coach Dave DiIanni said. “We have a group of young men that have respect for our program and players and want to help our girls and that speaks to their love of the game.”

Not only do they contribute to the practices in a strictly numbers sense, they are key in upping the tempo and challenging the women’s team.

Nash, however, takes things to another level and that has greatly improved both his play and the play of an up-and-coming Iowa team that is right in the thick of things in the Big Ten.

“[Spencer] is very skilled and definitely challenges us — but he also knows how to play to protect us so that we don’t get hurt,” senior Caitlin Brown said. “As a defender, it’s always helpful to have the male practice players to challenge you with their speed and technical ability in one versus one.”

As his time in college comes to a close, the sports business major will leave knowing he helped contribute to the recent rise in Iowa soccer.

And for him, that will be enough.

“I don’t know how much of a part that I played in it, but I’m just out here — they say ‘jump’ I say ‘how high?”’ Nash said. “Anything they want I’m glad to be out here and help them out as much as I can — it’s been a real pleasure to play with them.”

Follow @JordyHansen on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa soccer team.