Hawk soccer flying high


Ting Xuan Tan

Iowa midfielder Karly Stuenkel tries to block the ball during a soccer match at the Iowa Soccer Complex in Iowa City on Sunday, Aug 28, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cowgirls 3-2. (The Daily Iowan/Ting Xuan Tan)

By Ricardo Ascencio

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The fall has sprung, the season is still young, and Hawkeye soccer has demonstrated a lot to be excited about.

After losing a nail-bitter against Creighton, 3-2, in their season-opener, the Hawkeyes have found their stride, winning five in a row (including a 9-2 run last weekend against Colorado State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and now have a 5-1 record.

“Getting 9 goals in two games is always good and going into our rival weekend against Iowa State is always good,” said freshman Natalie Winters. “To have that energy and that win coming in is always fun and always good.”

Iowa boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten, thanks to its dynamic duo in senior Bri Toelle and junior Karly Stuenkel, who both lead the team in scoring with 4 goals.

Toelle has saved her best for last; she is on pace to surpass her season bests in goals, assists, total points, and minutes played.

She has also been on a tear recently; the senior from Gainesville, Virginia, has scored in three-straight contests, including her first multi-goal game this season against Wyoming, one of the goals being the game winner.

Stuenkel is also enjoying her best season as a Hawkeye — she is also on pace to beat her season personal bests in goals, assists, total points, and minutes played.

Stuenkel’s play over the early part of the season, and especially over the last week, has not gone unnoticed — the junior was recently named the Big Ten Player of the Week.

When asked how she was feeling about her hot start, she kept her answer short but sweet:

“It feels good, yeah, it’s good.”

The St. Charles, Illinois, native is no stranger to accolades; her 5 goals and 2 assists during her sophomore season earned her the team’s Offensive Player of the Year.

The only way to win is to score, and no one knows that better than head coach Dave DiIanni.

“Of all the teams that I have been on that were successful were teams that can score a variety of ways across the board. We have seven or eight players who can score goals,” he said. “We are making progress in the final third and creating opportunities. For us, a lot of it starts with our ball movement and creating a lot of chances off of our defensive presence.”

While a 5-1 start is plenty to feel great about, DiIanni’s Hawks know that they cannot rest on their laurels as they prepare to start their road trip Saturday against Iowa State and then continue on Sept. 11 against Colorado.

“Iowa State and Colorado are two tough teams, but we are excited to go up against them and show them what we can do,” said DiIanni in a press release.

If Iowa can find a way to take down Iowa State and Colorado this weekend, there is plenty of reason to believe that it can compete for the Big Ten title.

The season is still early, and it’s best to not get ahead of oneself, but with how the Hawkeyes are playing, the sky seems to be the limit.

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