Iowa women’s soccer finding transition back easy after a break

During the COVID-19 break, the team worked hard to stay in shape and get touches on the ball.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Iowa Forward Skylar Alward retreats during the Iowa Women’s Soccer game versus Northwestern at the Hawkeye Soccer Complex in Iowa City on Sunday, September 29, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 2-1 in overtime.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Of all the struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the disruption of regular team training regimens may be the hardest of all challenges student-athletes have faced.

The Iowa women’s soccer team was sent home in the middle of a productive spring season before hearing the news of the canceled season. Most athletes were not allowed on campus for three months, more than enough time for the team to lose its fitness. However, the staff and players worked together to put a plan in place and execute it.

“I was very impressed with our team in terms of fitness levels,” head coach Dave DiIanni said.

The team was played some games and got a lot of good tactical training in the spring before being sent home, and coaches and players alike attempted to keep their momentum going.

“For us during quarantine when we were home, our coaching staff helped to give us workouts to utilize at-home equipment,” junior defender Sarah Wheaton said.

Everyone has a different at-home scenario and varying levels of equipment access, so the team got creative with different workouts with players using everything from truck tailgates to park benches to stay in shape. The different workouts helped keep things from getting old, even if it was difficult staying motivated away from the team.

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“For me, I knew my teammates were going to be doing the same thing, so I think that just knowing that my teammates at home were pushing themselves, that made me want to push myself,” junior midfielder Hailey Rydberg said.

Along with conditioning, getting touches on the ball and staying in form was vital for the players. Rydberg said she was lucky enough to have old teammates back home who were up to play pickup soccer during the downtime.

“I had a lot of club teammates back home that were in the same situation as I was,” she said. “That gave us a good chance to get reconnected and run together and get touches on the ball, whether it was going to a random field or an open high school field nearby,

Wheaton was less fortunate, with state and local restrictions hindering the ability for her to gather. However, she still got her brother to kick the ball around with her and practice in local parks.

“It definitely felt a little different, but speaking for the rest of the team, we got back into it pretty quickly, and it didn’t seem to take too long,” the defender said.

Now, with a season in question, the team is hoping to stay in shape and be ready for whatever is thrown at them next.

“This is going to make us better people, and make us more flexible individuals, and we are going to face adversity and be stronger for it,’ DiIanni said.

The team will have to stay resilient, as there is still no sign of a season in the near future. The Big Ten’s postponement of fall athletics on Aug. 11 ensured Iowa soccer will not be playing any games until at least the spring.

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