Iowa soccer set to kick off 2021 season with two-game road trip

The Hawkeyes will face DePaul at 4 p.m. Thursday and Saint Louis at 1 p.m. Sunday.


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)

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

After a Big Ten Championship run in 2020-21, Iowa soccer is set to kick off its 2021-22 campaign with a game against DePaul on Thursday and matchup with Saint Louis Sunday.

The Hawkeyes will play their first two games of the season on the road before they return to Iowa City for their home-opener against Iowa State Aug. 26.

Iowa won both of its preseason exhibition games earlier this month, picking up a 3-0 win against South Dakota on Aug. 7 and downing Northern Iowa, 1-0, Aug. 13.

“I think it’s been good to be able to get two exhibition games because you saw a lot of progress in a lot of areas from this group,” Hawkeye head coach Dave DiIanni said. “In one way, we’ve got a lot of experience, and in another way, we have some inexperienced players, and we’re still waiting for some depth to be able to occur.”

DiIanni said his Hawkeyes have a lot of experience on the back end with defenders like junior Sam Cary and senior Sara Wheaton, and goalkeepers Monica Wilhelm and sophomore Macy Enneking.

On the offensive front, the Hawkeyes will have a few new weapons they can utilize in 2021-22. Freshman forward Kenzie Roling and graduate transfer forwards Courtney Powell and Alyssa Walker all joined the Iowa soccer program this offseason.

The Hawkeyes sorely need the extra firepower Roling, Powell, and Walker may provide. Last season, Iowa struggled offensively, averaging just 0.65 goal per game. In 2020-21, the Hawkeyes didn’t score a single goal in their first six games.

Joining Roling, Powell, and Walker on offense is sophomore Meike Ingles, who led the Hawkeyes in scoring last year with four goals.

“We have kids who want to score goals,” DiIanni said. “They look to score goals and they’re dynamic, and we’re hoping that translates into the games.”

Iowa’s offense will have a chance to flex its muscles Thursday against DePaul. Last season, the Blue Demons surrendered 1.567 goals per game — good for just 221st in the country.

DePaul went 3-5 in 2020-21 and is projected to finish ninth in the 11-team Big East in 2021-22, per a preseason poll.

The Blue Demons are, however, returning their leading scorer — forward Morgan Turner. Over the last four years, Turner has put the ball in the back of the net on 22 occasions.

Unlike DePaul, Saint Louis is a tough test for Iowa on paper. Last season, the Billikens were seeded 15thoverall in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championships.

Saint Louis is projected to win the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship this season, according to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Like Iowa, Saint Louis will enter Sunday’s matchup with one regular season game under its belt, as Billikens are slated to face Xavier at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“I’m really excited to see what the SLU game is like,” senior midfielder Hailey Rydberg said. “Just talking to some people, talking to the coaches, I know SLU is going to be a really good opponent. So, I think it’s really going to put us to the test and see how physically strong and mentally strong we can be and kind of overcome that against a real good opponent.”

For Cary, Sunday’s matchup against Saint Louis is meaningful beyond the pitch. A native of St. Charles, Missouri, Cary grew up playing with some of the athletes on the Billikens’ roster.

“I’ve had a lot of people already reach out saying they’re going to be at that SLU game because they haven’t seen me play in-person for so long,” Cary said. “So, I’m excited to go back to my community ties and be able to do what I want on my home turf.”

Iowa’s game against DePaul kicks off at 4 p.m. Thursday, and its matchup with Saint Louis begins at 1 p.m. Sunday.