The Daily Iowan

Hawkeye soccer braces for Central Michigan, VCU

Iowa soccer wants an offensive spark at the Hawkeye Invitational, when the team takes on Central Michigan and VCU.

University+of+Iowa+soccer+player+Claire+Graves+watches+the+action+from+her+goal+line+during+a+game+against+Indiana+State+University+on+Sunday%2C+Aug.+26%2C+2018.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Sycamores+1-0.+
University of Iowa soccer player Claire Graves watches the action from her goal line during a game against Indiana State University on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Sycamores 1-0.

University of Iowa soccer player Claire Graves watches the action from her goal line during a game against Indiana State University on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Sycamores 1-0.

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa soccer player Claire Graves watches the action from her goal line during a game against Indiana State University on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Sycamores 1-0.

James Geerdes, Sports Reporter

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Iowa soccer will take on Central Michigan and VCU this weekend after a strong start to the season under its belt. But the Hawkeyes still lack in one category.

Two-thirds of Iowa’s soccer team has had a strong, albeit short, season. Morgan Kemerling has led a disciplined defense, and Claire Graves has been a rock in goal. The midfield is creating opportunities for attacks.

But a piece of the puzzle has been missing. Iowa’s top third has been unable to find the back of the of the net in key moments, despite having chances.

Iowa has outscored its three opponents this season, 3-0, resulting in two wins and one draw. Finishing chances has plagued Hawkeye forwards thus far.

“We are creating the chances to score goals — we’re just not,” head coach Dave DiIanni said. “We’re just going to continue with the daily grind and get better. We have players who have taken ownership in that space. Kaleigh Haus has been getting a lot of chances and just been getting a little unlucky. She’ll be on the right side of things soon as long as she keeps putting herself in position to score goals.”

However, this weekend could be the last of Iowa’s stagnant offense.

DiIanni set the return date of veteran forwards Devin Burns and Olivia Fiegel for the following weekend. Rival Iowa State will be the first to experience the duo’s attacks on Sept. 7.

But until then, the backline and Graves must remain solid. Graves, only a junior, is one shutout away from advancing to third in Iowa’s record books for most career clean sheets. She boasts 14 but has bigger plans than the personal accolade.

“Knowing that the goalkeepers who do hold those records are the ones who led their teams to NCAA Tournament and beyond is good,” Graves said. “Sure, the record’s great, but someone’s going to beat it eventually.”

Both Central Michigan and VCU have offensive potential. A threat comes from Chippewa Lexi Pelafas, who has notched 3 goals this season. She led the MAC in scoring in 2017 with 13 goals.

VCU, on the other hand, plays a high-pressure game that forces defenses to remain poised.

“Central Michigan has a forward who led the country in goals two years ago — a really athletic player,” DiIanni said. “She can stretch the game behind you. They’re also very disciplined defensively. VCU is the opposite, where they will throw numbers at you, and pressure you, and give you space behind if you can break the pressure.

“Totally different styles of play. One will have the ball a lot, and we will have to pass the ball and break them down, and the other one, we will have to find the spaces to play behind, and it will be a very up-tempo game.”

Central Michigan’s and VCU’s contrasting game plans offer DiIanni a chance to strengthen his squad before starting Big Ten play on Sept. 14 against Maryland.

“Both are very different opponents — very different styles of play,” DiIanni said. “For us, it’s about what we do and what we need to do better and be more consistent with.”

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About the Writer
James Geerdes, Sports Reporter

James “Jim” Geerdes is a sports reporter, digital producer, and designer. He is currently  a sophomore. He spent his freshman year covering wresting,...

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