Iowa women’s soccer ready for long break

Many members of Iowa’s soccer team will be focusing on individual growth until they return for the spring semester.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa forward Devin Burns runs down the ball during a women’s soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

The Hawkeye soccer team suited up as they might for a normal game on multiple occasions this semester, donning the Black and Gold. But, instead of playing an opponent, they competed among themselves in intrasquad scrimmages in order to comply with the Big Ten Conference’s COVID-19 protocols.

The scrimmages were opportunities for the Hawkeyes to log some competitive minutes in a game-less season.

“It was nice to see progression as we’ve gone through,” captain Riley Whittaker said. “The chemistry has continued to grow as we have played together as we have combined the freshmen and the players who have already played together.”

The scrimmages also helped Iowa improve its fitness and fully incorporate its freshmen, which could be important when the postponed fall season begins this spring.

“Being able to learn how to play faster and at a quicker pace has been something I had to learn in the first couple games, but by games three and four I definitely was able to pick it up. I definitely started to make an impact on the team, instead of just standing back and learning,” freshman Maggie Johnston said.

The NCAA announced Sept. 23 that women’s soccer could begin play Feb. 3, with NCAA Championships to be held May 13-17. The 48-team bracket will be announced April 18. 31 teams will automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and an additional 17 will be selected via at-large bid.

RELATED: Iowa soccer breaks ground on operations facility

Now comes the Hawkeyes’ biggest test of the fall. After Thanksgiving break, most of the team will head home for the UI’s extended fall and winter break periods. So, for the second time since March, the coaching staff and players will be separated. Each player has received an individualized plan from the coaching staff and a workout regimen from the strength and conditioning coaches.

“We can all better ourselves so that when we all come back, we are going to be better as a team and a group,” Maggie Johnston said.

The fall season allowed the Hawkeyes to mesh. Having already been through this in March, the team is more prepared for the extended break this time around.

Samantha Tawharu has already returned home to play club soccer in New Zealand, starting for Northern Lights in a 2-0 win over Southern United Football Club.

Meanwhile, Whitaker will be blazing a comeback trail, recovering from an ACL injury she suffered. It is the first time Whitaker has suffered a major injury before.

“The most I’ve ever missed for soccer was two games, and I had just tweaked my hamstring,” Whitaker said. “It’s weird coming to practice and everyday knowing I am doing rehab and watching the team practice.”

The team will have one more intrasquad game Thursday before departing from Iowa City the following day.