Iowa soccer’s Rydberg earns captaincy through her hard work and vocal presence

Iowa soccer recently announced that juniors Hailey Rydberg and Riley Whitaker would captain the Hawkeyes for the upcoming season.

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Wyatt Dlouhy

Iowa Midfielder Hailey Rydberg runs the pitch 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


In a season where quality leadership has been needed more than ever, junior Hailey Rydberg has stepped into a larger role. With just one senior on the team this season, it was clear that the third-year class would need to elevate its presence. Rydberg, along with fellow junior Riley Whitaker, was named co-captain of the 2020-21 Iowa soccer team.

Rydberg has shown natural leadership skills so far in her time at Iowa and has continued to step up through this season as a midfielder. She has the personality of a leader, with the ability to be personable and stay vocal on the field.

“[Rydberg] is someone who takes every day to get better and improve in every area of the student-athlete experience,” head coach Dave DIianni said.

From the day Rydberg was recruited, DIianni could see her natural ability to lead. The player said she always considered herself a leader on her club team back when she played youth and high school soccer. However, being a leader on her club soccer team pales in comparison to where she is now.

“Club was not as intense as Division I soccer is,” Rydberg said. “But having that role as a leader helped me come into freshman year with a little bit of experience.”

The midfielder has had an impact on the team since her freshman year. In 2018, she started 13 times and piled up over 800 minutes for the season.

She continued to make her presence felt in the subsequent season, appearing in every game and ended up just under the 800-minute mark for her sophomore season.  Although Rydberg has not been on the score sheet much yet, she has controlled the middle third and made herself a dominant force without putting the ball in the net.

A steady presence on the team since her arrival, Rydberg said she feels like she has grown a lot since her first season at Iowa.

“Freshman year was a good learning experience for me to figure out my role as a player and a leader, and then sophomore year is when I decided to step it up leadership-wise,” Rydberg said. “I tried getting a little more involved, I used my voice and I was more comfortable with the girls.”

RELATED: Hawkeye players reflect on their soccer journeys

As she has become more comfortable with the team, Rydberg has continued to gain the respect of her fellow teammates, who had lots of positive things to say about her. She has made individual progress while also becoming her teammates’ most beloved leader and friend.

“Hailey is not only a phenomenal soccer player, but she is a great person and a great teammate,” sophomore Monica Wilhelm said. “She hones the leadership position by her work ethic and love for the game.”

As co-captains, Rydberg and Whitaker are forming a solid partnership, steering the team together through their own leadership styles.

“She’s pretty vocal on the field,” Whitaker said. “As we have gotten older, she has continued to be more vocal. She is really personable and anyone on the team is comfortable coming up to her and talking to her and just having a conversation if they are struggling.”

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