Monica Wilhelm prepared to lead Iowa soccer team’s goalkeepers

After learning from Claire Graves the past two seasons, the Antioch, Illinois, native is ready to take her place as the starting goalkeeper.


Megan Nagorzanski

Fan watch during Iowa's match against Illinois State on Sunday, September 1, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Red Birds 4-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Replacing a four-year starter is not easy, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Monica Wilhelm is ready to take that leap and replace Claire Graves.

The Antioch, Illinois, native said that the Iowa soccer program is one of a kind and that the team has some of the best coaches and players who are extremely willing to give their all.

Graves was one of those players. She finished her career with the most wins in program history, and became someone who Wilhelm befriended and learned a lot from.

Wilhelm said there’s always competition at the position of goalkeeper, which can cause tension among players.

Portrait of Monica Wilhelm. Contributed.

“But the goalkeeping atmosphere at Iowa was just been like no other program I’ve ever been a part of, and that speaks volume of who Claire is too,, because no matter who was in during a game, whether it was practice or whatever it was, she was always cheering on the goalkeepers for every big save or she was picking us up for every mistake that we made,” Wilhelm said.

Coaches have also made a big difference in Wilhelm’s time at Iowa. In the 2018 season, which Wilhelm redshirted, Iowa assistant coach Rade Tanaskovic was responsible for coaching the goalkeepers.

After he moved to the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League, Iowa associate head coach Blair Quinn was hired by the program and became the new coach for the goalkeepers.

“He has been an exceptional addition to our program,” Wilhelm said. “He really understands his goalkeepers and knows how to push us not only physically, but mentally, and he’s been a huge part of my growth as a goalkeeper and my growth as a human overall.”

The sport and recreation management major had the qualities of being a number one goalkeeper when she was being recruited, Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said.

“Bravery was a huge one,” DiIanni said. “She’s brave, she’s willing to sacrifice her body to make a save. She had the ability to make big saves that maybe that wouldn’t normally be executed by all goalkeepers. Her leadership qualities her fantastic. She had great presence on the field, both verbally and her persona physically. [These are] all the things that we’re seeing kind of coming out now.”

Last season, Wilhelm got a chance to play in three games for just under 100 minutes combined against Illinois State, Maryland, and Penn State, and gave up one goal. She said she was grateful for getting the chance to play in those games and that the taste of playing is getting her excited to compete this season.

Currently, the program is doing voluntary workouts, and DiIanni said he’s heard that Wilhelm is physically fit and ready to grow and lead the program. He also said that she could possibly be a captain on the team because she can connect with all different groups within the program, and because of how much being successful at the UI means to her.

Wilhelm said she is also trying to follow in the footsteps of Graves by continuing the close connection among the other goalkeepers, which are redshirt freshman Sabrina Shaw and freshman Macy Enneking.

“We’re teammates and friends first, and I think we’re really close,” Wilhelm said. “Our freshman last year had a lot of respect for Claire and I can see them having that respect for me as I kind of step into Claire’s shoes as like the leading goalkeeper. It’s been great. I’m excited to train with them to this season.”

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