Iowa soccer ready for tough weekend slate

Coming off of a victory against Michigan State, Iowa soccer faces Rutgers and Maryland this weekend.

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Iowa soccer ready for tough weekend slate

Iowa defender Hannah Drkulec navigates the field during a women's soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0.

Iowa defender Hannah Drkulec navigates the field during a women's soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defender Hannah Drkulec navigates the field during a women's soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defender Hannah Drkulec navigates the field during a women's soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

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The toughest two-game stretch of the year is coming for the Iowa soccer team, as it faces Rutgers at 7 p.m. tonight and Maryland at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both games are at the Iowa Soccer Complex.

The Scarlet Knights are 9-2-1 overall (3-2 in the Big Ten) this season and are ranked No. 19 by TopDrawerSoccer. The Terrapins are 7-4-2 overall (3-2 in the Big Ten) and have a game against Nebraska tonight. The Hawkeyes are 12-2 overall, while also boasting a 4-2 record in conference play.

Senior captain and defender Hannah Drkulec, who recently won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, pointed out the strengths of the Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins.

“We’ve mostly just been talking about Rutgers,” Drkulec said. “But we know that they are a very good transition team, they’re very good at taking the ball and coming back down your throat, so we’re working on that and knowing that. And then we got to see Maryland who beat them, and so they are kind of more of a defensive [team] and they hang with the ball more, so we are going to have to look at them more, too.”

Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni knows that against the Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins, his team must be dialed in defensively for 90 minutes and that its defensive transition and its ability to stop defensive dribble penetration has got to be special.

“We’re going to have to work hard to score goals,” DiIanni said. “But we feel that’s one of our strengths, as well.”

RELATED: Iowa soccer wins 3-0 at Michigan State

Last weekend gave the Hawkeyes a confidence boost, as they beat Nebraska on Oct. 3 at home and defeated  Michigan State Sunday on the road. It was Michigan State’s first loss while playing at home this season.

The win proved to the Hawkeyes they could break out of a specific pattern that was plaguing them to start the Big Ten season.  Previously, Iowa had found success this season in Thursday and Friday games but struggled with games on Sunday.

“When something like that happens and it starts to become a pattern, it’s something that you need to look into,” Drkulec said. “So, I think coming out and having such a strong win against Michigan State just gave us the confidence to know that we can show up on Sundays, and we will show up on Sundays if we have that right mentality.”

DiIanni liked the way his team started against the Spartans. 

“We scored two goals relatively early,” DiIanni said. “And our bench against Michigan State was probably the best it’s been since [North Carolina-Greensboro], and I think that’s really important for this group that we have more than 16, 17 players that we can count on.”

The game against Maryland on Oct. 13 has an extra meaning to Iowa. The game is senior day, and the Hawkeyes will be honoring 13 seniors. 

Sophomore defender Riley Whitaker had high praise for the group. 

“They’re incredible,” Whitaker said. “We would not be where we are without them. Their leadership is insane, just their motivation and how hard they push makes everyone around them want to play better.”

Drkulec said the day will be moment for her and the other seniors to thank the program for what it’s given them.

DiIanni sees this senior class as an important one for Iowa soccer considering what it’s given his program. Iowa soccer has taken great strides since these 13 seniors started playing games for the Hawkeyes.

“This senior class for me has been about building the culture and the program,” DiIanni said.

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