Iowa soccer leaning on experience, depth entering new season

The Hawkeyes have found plenty of success in the preseason. Now, they're looking to carry that over into the regular season.


The Daily Iowan; Photos by Josep

Iowa forward Devin Burns runs a ball down during the Iowa/Nebraska women's soccer game at the UI Soccer Complex on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. The Hawkeyes ended their game against the Cornhuskers in a 0-0 tie after two overtime periods. (Joseph Cress/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Sports Editor

When November comes along, the Iowa soccer team hopes to find itself in the heat of a competition it wasn’t involved in last year: the Big Ten Tournament.

And that goal is entirely attainable.

After finishing with an 8-7-3 record (4-5-2 Big Ten) in 2018, the Hawkeyes bring back 12 seniors, 10 starters, and five of their top six point scorers from last season.

With plenty of experience and depth — the team boasts 36 players, up from 29 in 2018 — the Hawkeyes are setting their goals high for a good reason.

“We have a lot of depth and a lot of experience coming back from last year,” midfielder Natalie Winters said. “Coming off from last year, our goal is to get back into the Big Ten Tournament, to the NCAA Tournament, so I think as a team, we know our mindset and everyone’s just ready to come out and play.”

Having seniors that number in the double digits can help a team both on and off the field. They’ve been around for at least three years, so they’ve become accustomed to the process and atmosphere the team is trying to establish.

“You hope [hunger] naturally comes with having [12] seniors,” Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said. “The seniors, I think, have done a lot to push this culture along into a direction that we feel like is productive.”

Burning up

 Devin Burns — one of the 12 seniors Iowa returns — could be a big key to accomplishing the goals the team set before the season.

Burns lit up the scoreboard in 2017, racking up a team-high 9 goals to go along with 5 assists en route to earning Iowa’s Offensive Player of the Year honor.

Then injuries struck. Burns was forced to miss action early in the season before appearing in 13 games and starting six. Despite the limited action, she ranked fourth on the team with five points, scoring 2 goals and an assist.

“It was really upsetting last season when I wasn’t able to play in the first month,” Burns said. “I’m just going to try to keep staying healthy. This summer, I was kind of working at it, making sure that I came in ready to go so I can play the whole season.”

She hasn’t missed a beat since. Last season, DiIanni said, Burns was the best player in preseason camp. Now, she’s still providing exactly what the team needs.

“We talked a lot with Devin about energy — just provide energy and effort,” DiIanni said. “That’s how she leads this group. We don’t need her to vocally do that. We just need her to do it through energy and effort defensively and in the attack, and she’s had a good camp so far with that.”

Heading to Holland

The Hawkeyes have already tasted victory before the season has started. In its spring season, Iowa posted a 7-0-0 record with wins over Minnesota, Western Illinois, Drake, Iowa State, Marquette, Missouri-Kansas City, and Missouri.

Then, the squad traveled overseas during the summer and found more success. If Iowa can keep that hot streak going, this season could provide plenty of success for a group looking to get back into the postseason.

“I think finishing off the spring and Europe with such a great record like we did was so important because it just puts us all on the front foot for going into the fall,” outside back Hannah Drkulec said. “We’re all ready to jump that first game and ready to go out there and prove to everyone what we’ve worked for and how far we’ve come since last fall.”

Now, one more preseason challenge awaits. The Hawkeyes will train in Holland, Michigan, this week before heading to Ann Arbor to face Michigan in an exhibition on Friday.

The Wolverines snuck into the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 8 seed last season, and while they aren’t on Iowa’s regular-season schedule this season, the matchup will be a good measuring stick for the team’s veterans and newcomers to see how the Hawkeyes stack up against a tournament team.

“For us in the game against Michigan, we want to get as many players who are eligible to play get good playing time,” DiIanni said. “They have a big roster as well, and we want to develop not only the top side of our roster, but we want to develop the inexperienced as well so they can get better. That’s only going to help us when we play Western Michigan in a week.”

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