Iowa soccer’s Sam Cary to return in 2023

Sam Cary has been a four-year starter for the Hawkeye soccer team and a multiple-time All-Big Ten selection.


Johnny Jarnagin

Iowa defender Samantha Cary kicking the ball across field to open teammate during a soccer game between Iowa and DePaul at the University of Iowa Soccer Complex on Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. The Iowa Hawkeyes beat the DePaul Blue Demons, 4-0.

Sam Knupp, Sports Reporter

Sam Cary will be using her extra year of eligibility to return to Iowa soccer in 2023.

Cary has been a four-year starter and a staple at left back for the Hawkeyes and averaged just under 86 minutes per game in 2022.

The senior said the decision to play for the Hawkeyes in 2023 became clear as soon as the extra year of eligibility, given to all 2020-21 athletes because of COVID-19, became available.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to lead this group for an extra year to be a part of a great team and a great program, to get better as a player, and also find a place to continue to give back to this program,” Cary said.

Cary said staying for a fifth year will be an opportunity for her to hone her skills before pursuing a professional career.

“For me, with my aspiring hope to play beyond college, I know that taking my fifth year here will be an opportunity where I still get to get better every day,” Cary said. “I have coaches who are invested in my growth that support my goals. And all of that made it a pretty easy decision.”

Cary said while 2022 has had its ups and downs, she’s excited for next year. With a stretch of successful games to finish the season, Cary said the Hawkeyes are starting to understand what it takes to win. She said the team’s hunger is something it can build on in the spring.

“It’s jump on board or jump off, and I think most of the team is jumping on right now,” Cary said.

For most of her career, Cary has been a left back, but that changed in 2022.

A few games into the season, Iowa changed from a four-at-the-back formation to a 3-5-2, putting Cary at left center back.


The senior said it’s not a position she expected to be in at the beginning of the year, but the transition has helped her soccer IQ.

At the left back position, Cary is known for her ability on the attack, making overlapping runs and sending crosses into the box. As a center back, Cary has to stay put in her defensive position, as she is the last line of defense before the goalkeeper.

Along with having to stay back, Cary said she’s also had to get used to the differing passing lanes at the center back position.

“I’ve been able to slow down a little bit more and find dangerous vertical entries and trust in my ability to hit different balls with different textures — whether that be a long 60-yard floated ball or a driven ball on the ground,” Cary said. “I think it’s given me a lot more versatility.”

Cary said if she returns to left back in 2023, she’ll likely be better at the position — her new experience at center back has forced her to get better in areas she wasn’t as good at.

On top of athletic accomplishments like being chosen for the COSIDA All-District Team, the senior has been on the Dean’s List in all four years of her career and has twice earned academic All-Big Ten honors.

Head coach Dave DiIanni said Cary is a player who has been through it all, experiencing the highs of a Big Ten Tournament win and the lows of missing the Big Ten Tournament altogether.

“Sam has played in all the big games,” DiIanni said. “She can lead by example, but also by voice. And she’s popular in the sense of she’s a good mentor for the younger kids.”