Iowa soccer set for No. 8 Rutgers

The Hawkeyes will travel to New Jersey this weekend to take on Rutgers, an undefeated team in the Big Ten.


Casey Stone

Iowa midfielder Hailey Rydberg passes the ball during a soccer game between Iowa and Michigan State at the Iowa Soccer Complex on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. Michigan State defeated Iowa 2-1.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Iowa soccer is heading to New Jersey this weekend to take on Rutgers.

And the Hawkeyes (8-4-1 overall, 2-3 Big Ten) are prepared to rise up to the challenge on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Rutgers is 10-2 overall and an undefeated 5-0 in the conference. The Scarlet Knights hold the best record in the conference heading into the Sunday showdown.

The Scarlet Knights are averaging 3.33 goals per match, topping the conference.

The Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights past four meetings have been decided by one goal each, with Rutgers taking home the victory for three consecutive years.

“I actually think the last couple years we’ve played really well against them,” senior midfielder Hailey Rydberg said. “It’s just the final details aren’t there. So, I think it’s going to come down to defensive mindset because they have obviously a ton of athletic forwards. So, being able to manage that and then just putting away our chances when they occur, I think is going to be huge.”

The final details have cost the Hawkeyes not only in their previous matches against Rutgers but also in two of Iowa’s past three matches this season.

The Hawkeyes blew a 1-0 lead in the last 20 seconds of regulation at Purdue Sept. 26 and lost, 2-1, in overtime. Iowa had a 1-0 lead at halftime vs. Michigan State Oct. 3 before allowing two second-half goals to drop the match.

RELATED: Iowa soccer falls to Michigan State, 2-1

Ahead of their trip to the east coast, the Hawkeyes know they need to refine their defense for a fighting chance against the Scarlet Knights.

“I think that starts with defending at the top with the forwards and defending as a team rather than just as a backline,” Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said. “I think the emphasis always falls on the defenders, but really it’s gone through two lines of players by the time it gets there. So, I think we need to be a bit more disciplined and more difficult and compact as a group, then that can make the defenders’ job a little bit easier.”

Prior to the beginning of the season, DiIanni stressed to the Hawkeyes that paying attention to detail, winning their individual battles, knowing their responsibilities, and staying focused for 90 minutes is key to success.

DiIanni also said he sees tackling, finishing opportunities, and being smart on set pieces as important pieces to the remainder of the season.

The ninth-place Hawkeyes are currently outside of the eight-team Big Ten Tournament. But in a competitive conference, Iowa knows it can change its fortunes in the back half of its 10-match Big Ten schedule.

“The Big Ten’s definitely crazy this year,” senior defender Sara Wheaton said. “So, there’s a lot of up and downs with every team, and I think we all know that that’s something that happens and it’s natural, so just kind of not read into it so much, and just really focus on us and what we need to improve on. The things that we control is going to be huge for us.”

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