Iowa soccer posts two shutouts in successful opening weekend

The Hawkeye soccer team started its season off on the right foot.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Anna Frick navigate's the field during a soccer match between Iowa and Missouri at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday, August 17, 2018. The Hawkeyes drew the Tigers, 0-0.

James Geerdes, Sports Reporter

Head coach Dave DiIanni and his Hawkeye soccer squad enjoyed a successful first weekend on the pitch.

The Hawkeyes earned 4 points this weekend after tying with physical Missouri, 0-0, on Aug. 17 and downing Creighton, 2-0, on Sunday.

“It’s great for us,” forward Natalie Winters said. “We want to keep moving forward. We knew we had to bring home a win Sunday and bring 4 points home this weekend.”

But the weekend was not without hiccups. Iowa failed to find options in both opening halves of the weekend’s games.

Iowa’s defense, led by senior center back Morgan Kemerling, played consistently. Two shutouts in the season’s first two games showed promise for a mature back line comprising Kemerling, Sara Wheaton, Hannah Drkulec, and Diane Senkowski.

“Really, we have four starters, but only three can play,” DiIanni said. “We’ve played well in the past and have given up bad goals. To get two shutouts this weekend shows that we have made good progress defensively.”

Missouri’s defense matched Iowa’s in the season-opener. The Hawkeyes amassed 7 shots on target compared with Mizzou’s 6.

After a 110-minute battle with no goals, Iowa ultimately tied Mizzou to earn a point.

 “As we got on in the game on the second half and into overtime, we couldn’t get enough possessions to open the game up and give us more chances,” DiIanni said. “We competed really hard. I’m really proud of our kids. Last year, we didn’t tie a game, and we would see a lot of these turn into 1-0 losses. I think it’s a benefit all the way around.”

Sunday’s game had a different outcome. Although the Hawkeyes used the first half to get comfortable, they quickly got to work in the second.

Winters became the first Hawkeye of the season to find the back of the net in the 46th minute on a penalty kick after freshman Riley Whitaker drew the foul in the box. Winters rocketed the ball in the top right of the net to put Iowa up 1-0.

“It relieves some of the pressure off us knowing we can do it,” Winters said. “Everyone on this team can score. On a Sunday grind, we’re so excited, and it just moves our energy forward.”

Whitaker was soon rewarded for the pain; she found the ball at her feet just inside the box. The freshman struck the ball and a deflection put it in the back of the net in the 55th minute, quickly putting Iowa up 2-0.

“It was great,” Whitaker said. “I had a lot of nerves the past game, and to get that goal takes them out of me. It was really good for me.”

Iowa had more opportunities as the game continued. Winters was left open in front of the goal late in the second half but sailed the ball above the crossbar.

On top of the win, the Iowa squad showcased depth. In its 2-0 victory over Creighton, DiIanni used 20 players.

The Hawkeyes will travel to Minneapolis Aug. 24 for their next match, against No. 21 Washington State.

“I think it’s a great start for the team to get 4 points and to go into the rest of the season knowing that every game matters,” goalkeeper Claire Graves said. “Looking back at last season, there were a couple of games we dropped that could have been the difference in getting to the NCAA Tournament and ending with a higher rank … This sets the tone for us this year.”

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