Iowa soccer primed for Big Ten Tournament Semifinal matchup with Rutgers

The Hawkeyes are two victories away from a Big Ten tournament title, and they haven’t lost a game in nearly a month.


Casey Stone

Iowa defender Samantha Cary maintains possession of 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

For the second time this calendar year, the Iowa soccer team is participating in a Big Ten tournament.

Iowa competed in the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament in April 2021. The 2020 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament was delayed until Spring 2021 because of COVID-19.

Now, about eight months after they played in and won the 2020 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament, the Hawkeyes are a part of the 2021 Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament.

Iowa’s 2021 Big Ten tournament experience has already paralleled its outing in the 2020 tourney.

Last season, the Hawkeyes faced No. 4 Penn State in the tournament quarterfinals. This year, they’re facing No. 4 Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

Iowa reigned victorious when it played then-No.4 Penn State a year ago. The Hawkeyes will look do the same against the now-No.4 Scarlet Knights on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

“I think we’re good at rising to the occasion,” Hawkeye defender Sam Cary said. “I think we have a very good mentality. The fact that we are going in as underdogs, what do we have to lose? So, we’re going to leave it all on the field. We’re going to tackle hard. We’re going to show who we are as an Iowa soccer program. At the end of the day, we’re going to walk off the field knowing that we’ve done everything in our power, and hopefully that results in a good outcome.”

Iowa lost, 1-0, to Rutgers during the 2021 regular season.

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The Hawkeyes held their own for the first 75 minutes of their Oct. 10 matchup with the Scarlet Knights. But in the 76th minute, Rutgers converted a penalty kick after a handball call went against Iowa. As the final score indicates, the goal proved to be enough to give the Scarlet Knights the edge over the Hawkeyes.

“I think, defensively, we were solid against Rutgers,” graduate transfer forward Alyssa Walker said. “I just think we didn’t have much of an offense against them. I think, as the season went on, we built more of an offense, and it’s really helped us as we get to the closing ends of the season.”

Rutgers won its last 12 games of the 2021 regular season. The Hawkeyes haven’t been held scoreless since they played the Scarlet Knights fewer than 30 days ago.

After they lost to the Scarlet Knights on Oct. 10, the Hawkeyes fell to 2-4 in Big Ten play. Iowa rallied over the last two weeks of the regular season, however, winning three out of their final four games.

The Hawkeyes’ late-season push propelled them into the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa upset Michigan State, 1-0, in the first round of the conference tourney Oct. 31, setting up Thursday’s Hawkeyes-Scarlet Knights matchup.

“Having this big upturn in our season like we’ve had since the last time we’ve played Rutgers is only going to build us momentum,” Cary said.

The Scarlet Knights enter Thursday’s semifinal contest with the Hawkeyes having held their last four opponents scoreless.

Given Rutgers’ defensive prowess, Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni knows his team won’t have much success Thursday if it starts sluggishly against the Scarlet Knights.

“We have to have a better start than what we’ve had the last couple games,” DiIanni said. “Or it’s going to be a long game against Rutgers.”