Iowa soccer begins NCAA Tournament play

After qualifying for their second NCAA Tournament in program history the Hawkeyes play in Lawrence, Kansas, against the Jayhawks.

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Iowa soccer begins NCAA Tournament play

Iowa forward Devin Burns chases down the ball during the Iowa v Rutgers soccer game at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday, October 11, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell to the Scarlet Knights 0-1.

Iowa forward Devin Burns chases down the ball during the Iowa v Rutgers soccer game at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday, October 11, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell to the Scarlet Knights 0-1.

Jenna Galligan

Iowa forward Devin Burns chases down the ball during the Iowa v Rutgers soccer game at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday, October 11, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell to the Scarlet Knights 0-1.

Jenna Galligan

Jenna Galligan

Iowa forward Devin Burns chases down the ball during the Iowa v Rutgers soccer game at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Friday, October 11, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell to the Scarlet Knights 0-1.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

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Lawrence, Kansas, home of the Kansas Jayhawks. After qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history, that’s where the Iowa soccer team is headed for its first-round matchup, which starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and will be streamed on ESPN3.

The Jayhawks are the No. 3 seed in the Charlottesville Regional and won the Big 12 Championship on Sunday. They are one of the best teams in the nation, as the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index ranks them at No. 9, while the Hawkeyes are ranked at No. 45.

Despite this wide gap — and Kansas’ home-field advantage — the Hawkeyes said they feel like they match up well against the Jayhawks.

“They are very similar to us in the way that they attack, the way they defend, how many goals they’ve score, how many goals they’ve given up, so I think it’s going to be a very even matchup,” senior captain and midfielder Isabella Blackman said.

The two teams’ numbers are strikingly similar. The Hawkeyes have scored 45 goals and given up 19 this season, while the Jayhawks have scored 41 goals and given up 18. The number of fouls each team has is similar as well, as the Hawkeyes have 237 and the Jayhawks 224.

Senior forward Katie McClure has been the Jayhawks leader statistically on the offense, as she has 14 goals and eight assists on the season. Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Peters has been excelling recently, as she was named the Defensive Most Outstanding Player in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Jayhawks have been excelling recently as well, as they’ve not lost since Oct. 3.

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“We know they are going to come out really hard,” senior forward Devin Burns said. “They are going to show that they deserve to be there, but we also deserve to be there of course, and we are going to come out and ready to play them.”

With the Jayhawks being an excellent team, the Hawkeyes know they must play a good game if they want to win.

“It’s going to take us eliminating critical mistakes,” head coach Dave DiIanni said. “We thought we played well against Penn State, but we made a mistake or two against teams that are good, who can punish you, and we’ve got to avoid that. We’ve learned from that already, and ultimately, we’ve got to take advantage that [we’ve] created, and I thought against Penn State we did that. We just weren’t able to get the ball in the back of the net.”

Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, they have been practicing well the past two weeks. This has all come that despite them not knowing that they would be in the NCAA tournament until Monday. They qualified as an at-large bid after losing in the Big Ten Quarterfinals to Penn State on Nov. 3.

Even with this uncertainty, DiIanni said he was impressed with how competitive and spirited they were last week, which he said has been true to their nature this season, especially with the leadership this senior group has provided.

“I think this group has put in so much effort this summer and this season,” Blackman said. “Everyone’s been so brought in and it’s really shown this season. This team has been historic and just hard work really pays off and we’re really excited to play.”

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