Iowa soccer’s Graves aiming for continued improvement in final season

Claire Graves has been in the Iowa program for a long time, and she has continued to improve.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa’s Claire Graves performs a goal kick 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. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Arguably, the most important position in soccer is goalkeeper. Every team needs to have a solid goalie in order to have a chance to win matches and make it far into the postseason.

Since 2016, Iowa soccer has boasted a reliable goalie to lean on in senior Claire Graves. As of Sunday, Graves is second all-time in career shutouts in Iowa history at 18, third all-time in career victories at 26, and fifth all-time in career saves at 192. Over the past three-plus seasons, she has played in 53 games and has started 52 of them. This season, she has only given up 1 goal in two games — both wins.

“I think it has to do solely with the coaching staff here,” Graves said. “I think I’ve had a great couple of coaches between Rade [Tanaskovic] and Blair [Quinn], and I think that they’ve really seen my potential and worked to pull that out of me.”

All the goalies on the team — Cora Meyers, Sabrina Shaw, Monica Wilhelm, and Zoey Slettehaugh — push each other every day to get better.

Head coach Dave DiIanni credits Graves’ success to her play with her technicality.

“She’s like an extra field player out there, and that’s really a very important quality to have,” he said. “I think the other part is she’s steady Eddie. She’s got a pretty calming influence — she never gets too high, she never gets too low.”

Now in her final season, Graves has plenty of experience. Because of that, she said, her experience at Iowa has helped her grow as a player.

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“In that regard, I think just having failure has forced me to grow,” Graves said. “Learning from failure, learning from challenges that I had early on freshman, sophomore year, but I think that has put us in a great position now.”

So far this year, Dilanni said Graves has been consistent and has demonstrated the experience of a fourth-year starter, as well as concurring with Graves in that she has learned from her mistakes in order to become a better player.

“She’s become a bit braver and a bit more proactive and aggressive coming off her line,” Dilanni said. “I don’t think that’s a strength of hers, but she’s doing what’s needed to be successful at this level and for this team.”

The stats show that Graves has become a better player since her freshman year.

In 2016, her save percentage was .723, and her goals against average was 1.59, compared with last season, when her save percentage was at .796. and her goals against average at 0.86.

Last season, Graves led the Big Ten with 0.46 shutouts per game and earned a Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week award. During one week in 2017, Graves was named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week as well.

Both Graves and DiIanni hope to finish the season by making the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, which the team has not done since 2017 and 2013 respectively.