Iowa women’s soccer set for season-opener against Wisconsin

The Hawkeyes will take the field for the first time since November 2019 on Saturday.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa midfielder Hailey Rydberg makes a pass during a women’s soccer match between Iowa and Maryland at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Sunday, October 13, 2019. The Hawkeyes shut out the Terrapins, 4-0. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

The Iowa women’s soccer team is set to open its season this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. as it travels to Loves Park, Illinois, to face off against Wisconsin.

The last matchup between the two teams came in October 2019. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.

In 2019, Wisconsin finished at the top of the Big Ten with a 10-0-1 conference and a 16-4-2 overall record.

The Hawkeyes finished the season ranked fifth in the Big Ten, posting 7-3-1 conference and 15-5-1 overall records.

COVID-19 pushed the 2020 fall season to the spring of 2021, forcing the Hawkeyes to go nearly 16 months without playing an NCAA-sanctioned game.

The Hawkeyes’ last game came in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Tournament Nov. 17. Iowa fell to Kansas, 1-0, after the Jayhawks scored a 70th-minute goal that would prove to be the game winner.

At the time, the Hawkeyes didn’t know they’d have to sit with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths for over a year.

Now, Iowa soccer is excited to finally get its opportunity to play a non-scrimmage game and rid its conscience of last year’s postseason loss once and for all.

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“There’s a lot that goes into the evaluation process,” Dilanni said. “For us, we’ve talked a lot about buying into the process, buying into every day, and the commitment to getting better every day. So, for us, playing an opponent that isn’t wearing the Tigerhawk, it’s going to be important that we temper our emotions early on, that we use that excitement to play together and compete against Wisconsin to better our performance.”

Three Hawkeyes have received preseason honors ahead of their matchup with Wisconsin Saturday. Juniors Hailey Rydberg and Sara Wheaton, and sophomore Samantha Cary have all been named Big Ten Players to Watch for the 2021 season.

Cary, who is a defender, started all 21 games as a true freshman in 2019. She played 90 or more minutes in eight games, and she scored one goal and posted three assists.

Wheaton, also a defender, started all 21 games in 2019. She played 90 or more minutes in 13 matches and finished the season with two goals and one assist.

Rydberg, a midfielder, played all 21 games in 2019. She finished the season with one goal and one assist. Rydberg is one of the co-captains for this year’s squad alongside junior Riley Whitaker.

The Hawkeyes are projected to finish sixth in the Big Ten this year per the league’s coaches’ poll. Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Rutgers, and Ohio State round out the top five ahead of Iowa, in that order.

With work to do to get the top of the conference, Rydberg and company are ready to happily accept any challenges that come their way this season.

“I think we’re all super thankful that we’re able to do all this in the midst of everything going on,” Rydberg said. “At this point, we want to show everyone the hard work and effort that we have been putting in these last few months. We’re excited to see how we’re going to look against a team that’s not ourselves. As I said, for so long, we’ve been scrimmaging each other. I think it’s going to be about having that energy and intensity we’ve been having these last few months and bringing it all together into that final product.”

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