Iowa soccer begins postseason at Illinois

The Hawkeyes play in the Big Ten Regional Weekend Thursday night.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa defender Samantha Cary navigates the field during a women’s soccer match between Iowa and Western Michigan on Thursday, August 22, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Broncos, 2-0. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan)

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

Iowa soccer will return to action against Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten Regional Weekend Thursday night in Champaign, Illinois, at 7 p.m.

The matchup marks the beginning of the postseason for the Hawkeyes. The format of a regional weekend is a first for the conference.

The battle between the two teams will be the second meeting this season. The two met Feb. 25 during the regular season. Iowa fell to Illinois in that contest, 3-0. In that meeting, the Hawkeyes outshot the Fighting Illini 13 to nine but never found the back of the net. Illinois senior goalkeeper Sami Sample came up with eight saves to wrap up the win.

It was the only match of the season where Iowa has given up three goals.

Knowing they didn’t perform as well as they would have like in that first matchup, the Hawkeyes are looking to show their improvement this go around.

“I think the exciting thing is that Illinois is a great test for that,” sophomore defender Sam Cary said. “We played Illinois in our second game of the season, and it was a game frankly we all want back. It was not our best performance, probably one of our worst all year. We’re so excited to play them again because it will really show how much we have progressed.”

Since then, Iowa has amassed three shutouts and has a 2-8-1 record heading into Thursday.

Illinois has accumulated a 6-4-1 record and had two impressive road wins against Michigan State and Northwestern to end the regular season.

RELATED: Iowa soccer falls in regular season finale, 1-0, to Nebraska

At the beginning of the season, Iowa had trouble finding the net, opening the season with a six-game scoring drought. The Hawkeyes got their first goal March 18 and three different Hawkeyes have scored since then.

The Big Ten Regional Weekend pits Big Ten West and Big Ten East schools against one another in a single-elimination bracket. The surviving four teams will be individual selected to participate in the Big Ten Tournament.

Illinois is the No. 2 seed in the west region, and Iowa is the No. 7 seed. Iowa’s bracket also holds No. 3 seed Minnesota and No. 6 seed Nebraska. The bracket’s top finisher will earn a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, which starts April 15. In the tournament, winners will be reseeded, with highest remaining seed playing host to the lowest remaining seed.

With it being the start of the postseason, the Hawkeyes know that they have to prepared mentally, as one loss will send them home.

“We’ve had so many games where we were the better team,” Cary said. “A quick five-minute lapse in our judgment and sure enough were down. We have to find a way to not let those lapses happen. We have to play for a full 90 and worst case 110 minutes. We have to find ways to capitalize on the moments that we get because we do get chances.”

Should the Hawkeyes win Thursday’s contest, they will move on to Sunday’s regional final. That match will be played against either Minnesota or Nebraska in Champaign.

Big Ten women’s soccer postseason schedule.