Young Iowa soccer forward line spearheaded by junior Tawharu

The New Zealand native had a solid first year as she adjusted to the pace of college soccer, and is ready to lead the line in the spring.


Nichole Harris

Forward Samantha Tawharu prepares to rush the ball during the women’s soccer game against Nebraska at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 1-0.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

There is no denying the success that the Iowa soccer team had last season. Whether it was solid passing and possession, having the ability to win the ball back when the team turned over possession or keeping a solid backline shape, the Hawkeyes were very organized and well managed.

However, one area the team did somewhat struggle with last season was scoring goals from open play. Junior Samantha Tawharu saw a need for the team to be much more creative in the final third, while the coaching staff certainly agreed with that.

“We need to be much better as a program to sustain our success level in the run of play, particularly in the final 30 yards,” head coach Dave DIianni said.

This is not to say the team did not score goals. The Hawkeyes averaged over two goals per game on the season and had a healthy variety of goalscorers. Most of the goalscorers from last season are gone, so the team will be looking for some new pieces to build a revamped attack around.

However, one person who will continue to be a presence on the forward line is junior Samantha Tawharu. She is a New Zealand native who spent time on its youth national team, and brings bags of experience and quality from playing at such a high level. This is something DIianni said is hard to find and replicate at the college level.

“Sam is somebody who right away has an incredible knowledge of the game of soccer, both tactically and technically,” DIianni said. “A lot of that has come from her experience from the international level, playing against and with some of the best players in the country at those youth ages.”

Tawharu bagged five goals and five assists in 21 matches played and eight starts, not a bad tally for a player who was still adjusting to living in a new country and learning how the game is played over in the United States. Adjusting to the style of play was something that was difficult at first, but she now feels like she has the tools to succeed.

“Athleticism plays a lot bigger role in college sports, especially being able to sub,” Tawharu said. “Being able to go into the gym with the girls helped.”

It appears that Tawharu will be the focal point of the attack once again this season alongside Gianna Gourley. Gourley had herself an impressive freshmen year, scoring five goals and assisting three times in eight starts and 21 matches played. This fast start as a Hawkeye earned her Big Ten All-Freshman honors, and she certainly has the respect of the players around her.

Another thing that stands out about the pair is their clinical ability when in shooting positions. Tawharu took 19 shots last season, scoring on five. Gourley took 27 shots, scoring on five of those as well. With two potentially lethal players up front, the team is focusing on pushing forward more this spring and getting everyone involved in the build up so that things are more fluid this season.

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With one of the most exciting incoming classes of attacking talent in recent history, there is the potential for some of the freshmen to step up into an important role in the attack right away. By having the right tactical adjustments, there is certainly the potential for the Iowa attack to be lethal from both set pieces and open play.

“I don’t think we will be defensive based, just based on some of the freshmen coming in and who we have as attacking players, we will definitely be looking to get forward this season more,” junior defender Riley Whitaker said.


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