Soccer hits the Big Ten road

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Soccer hits the Big Ten road

Iowa midfielder Karly Stuenkel kicks the ball UNI players celebrate a goal during the game on Tuesday, September 1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 2-1 in overtime. (The Daily Iowan/Rachael Westergard)

Iowa midfielder Karly Stuenkel kicks the ball UNI players celebrate a goal during the game on Tuesday, September 1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 2-1 in overtime. (The Daily Iowan/Rachael Westergard)

Iowa midfielder Karly Stuenkel kicks the ball UNI players celebrate a goal during the game on Tuesday, September 1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 2-1 in overtime. (The Daily Iowan/Rachael Westergard)

Iowa midfielder Karly Stuenkel kicks the ball UNI players celebrate a goal during the game on Tuesday, September 1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Panthers, 2-1 in overtime. (The Daily Iowan/Rachael Westergard)


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The Hawkeyes will take on Michigan State and Michigan this weekend.

By Courtney Baumann
[email protected]

The nonconference season is over, and now the real fun starts for the Iowa soccer team.

The Hawkeyes kick off Big Ten play with a road trip to the state of Michigan to take on Michigan State today and Michigan on Sept. 20.

Big Ten play will be a large switch from the previous matches the team has played, head coach Dave DiIanni said.

“Everything is going to get amped up a notch — intensity, physicality, urgency,” he said. “The margin of error becomes smaller because the teams get better.”

The upperclassmen have seen this intensity firsthand, but many new faces don’t know what Big Ten play is all about. With more than half of the team made up of underclassmen — 14 are freshmen or redshirt freshmen — there is a lot of inexperience on the Hawkeyes.

The Spartans, on the other hand, return as many seniors as Iowa has upperclassmen.

In order to combat that, those with experience in more intense situations have taken it upon themselves to ensure the newbies are prepared.

“We’ve been saying all throughout the nonconference, ‘Just wait until we get to the Big Ten, because we can’t have 20 minutes of bad soccer, or you’ll get punished,’ ” said Brooke Backes, one of the four seniors on the Hawkeyes’ roster. “They know that it’s a huge step up, and we need them as much as they need us.”

Another challenge Iowa will face is having different plans of attack for the two games, considering how unalike Michigan State and Michigan are.

Michigan State will be more like the Hawkeyes in that it is a more defensive team, DiIanni said. He plans on a low scoring match and hopes his Hawkeyes can keep control of the ball in order to keep pressure on the Spartan defense.

Michigan, on the other hand, is a much more offensive team and more challenging all around. DiIanni hopes that with a win today, the team would be able to play more relaxed — and more aggressively — on Sept. 20.

The key to beating Michigan will be getting ahead early.

“[Michigan] doesn’t do well when they’re coming from behind, but they do really well when they have a lead,” said DiIanni. “We have to make them chase the game early.”

Although the team has to be the visitor for its first set of games, the second-year head coach hopes the road trip will benefit his players rather than be a complication. The close quarters allows the coaches have extra control over how much sleep the players get, what kind of food they eat, and cut out any distractions.

Junior Amanda Lulek looks at the bright side of having to travel.

“It would be great to be home, but I think we do well on the road,” the defender said. “Our parents travel really well, too, so we always have some kind of crowd at our away games.”

After the last nonconference game against Illinois-Chicago, DiIanni noted some frustration with the lack of effort in his team. However, the energy is back up heading into the Big Ten season.

“It’s natural at the end of nonconference to be kind of tired, and it’s been a long month,” DiIanni said. “But the excitement of the Big Ten renews the spirit of the kids.”

Follow @cbomb12 on Twitter for news, analysis, and updates on the Iowa soccer team.

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