Iowa women’s soccer continues spring campaign with matchup at Illinois

This is the second game this season for Iowa, who lost against Wisconsin Saturday.


Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa defender Sara Wheaton take a corner during Iowa’s match against Illinois State on Sunday, September 1, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Red Birds 4-3.

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

The Iowa women’s soccer team is back in action Thursday as it travels to Champaign, Illinois, to face Illinois at 3 p.m.

The last time the two teams met was back in September 2019. The Hawkeyes walked out of that contest with a 3-1 victory over the Fighting Illini.

This matchup marks the second of the season for both teams. Iowa (0-1) fell in its season opener to Wisconsin in a close-knitted battle. Illinois (1-0) was victorious in a matchup against Purdue.

This season the Hawkeyes are playing an all-Big Ten schedule because of COVID-19.

Iowa is looking to bounce back in their second competition. The Hawkeyes felt like they performed well enough to win last week, but they realize they need to hammer down on specific areas of their game.

“We actually played really well against Wisconsin,” junior defender Sara Wheaton said. “And obviously the result was not what we were hoping for. Defensively, I think it’s about fine-tuning little things, whether it’s the final tackle, just little movements like that. As far as attacking, we create a lot of good chances for ourselves, but sometimes we find it hard to put the ball in the back of the net. I think fine tuning defensive moments, winning more balls, and putting away our chances, hopefully we will get a win.”

Wheaton is one of three Iowa players to be named to the Big Ten Players to Watch List this season. Junior Hailey Rydberg and sophomore Sam Cary also received the honor.

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The Hawkeyes come into the season with a younger team than they have had in the past. This team only has one senior, defender Diane Senkowski. Eighteen of the 28 players on the roster this year are underclassmen.

In the last game against Wisconsin, Iowa opened the game with seven juniors, two sophomores, two freshmen, and no seniors. Senkowski came off the bench and provided 18 minutes. The most experienced position on the field is on defense in the form of Wheaton, junior Riley Whitaker, and Cary, who all started every game in 2019.

This season’s freshmen have a lot to prove, and they did not disappoint in the opening week. Four freshmen saw playing time in the opening match against Wisconsin, midfielder Maggie Johnston and forward Aleisha Ganief both got their first start in the black and gold. Midfielder Rielee Fetty and forward Meike Ingles came off the bench and did well in their first collegiate game, with Ingles getting a shot off late in the game.

Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni is proud of his young team’s work so far, and he’s glad that the freshmen are adjusting to collegiate play from the get-go.

“We had some good performances [in the first match],” DiIanni said. “We had four freshman play a lot of minutes in their first collegiate Big Ten game. They didn’t get a chance to play against nonconference opponents. Meike Ingles, Maggie Johnston, Aleisha Ganief, and Rielee Fetty played a lot of minutes, and showed that they could play at this level.”