Iowa soccer’s Hailey Rydberg talks time as a Hawkeye, future after a five-year college career

Rydberg came into the Hawkeye program in 2018 and has been a mainstay in the midfield ever since.

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Iowa midfielder Hailey Rydberg hits the ball with her head as Iowa State midfielder Eva Steckelberg attempts to do the same during a soccer game at the Cyclone Sports Complex in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. The Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes, 2-1.

Sam Knupp, Sports Reporter


Hailey Rydberg just finished her fifth season as part of the Hawkeye soccer team and will be graduating in December.

Rydberg was a key part of Iowa’s attack during her entire college career, as she scored 10 goals and assisted 14 in 94 appearances.

After spending the last half-decade in the Black and Gold, the Saint Charles, Illinois, native said it’s still sinking in that she won’t be on the team next year.

“It doesn’t really feel real yet,” Rydberg said. “After the season we usually get a week off anyway, so I feel like right now it’s just my week off.”

During her time at Iowa, Rydberg has been a third-team All-Big Ten selection, two-time academic All-Big Ten selection, and 2020-21 Big Ten All-Tournament team selection.

Rydberg said she was initially drawn to Iowa after coming to Iowa City when her sister was visiting the school.

“It’s a perfect distance from home,” Rydberg said. “My parents had been to every single game. And just the atmosphere here like the people, the players, the coaches — everything about it. I knew this was my home and it was right for me.”

The attacking midfielder said being part of the 2020-21 Iowa team that made an improbable run all the way to a conference tournament title is her proudest accomplishment.

The Hawkeyes started that season 0-7-1 and didn’t score a goal until their eighth game of the year when they played against Rutgers.

While Iowa lost to Rutgers, 2-1, Rydberg said it was the first game that year where Iowa played like a team. With that, the tide started to turn.

“Our saying that whole season was shock the world, and I think we did,” Rydberg said. “People were calling us a Cinderella story. So, I definitely think that all those outside sources were fueling us as well as our own desire to prove ourselves and prove to everyone else that you know, we are good.”

Rydberg followed the Big Ten Championship season with a solid 2021, earning third-team All-Big Ten honors with seven assists and a pair of goals.

In 2021, the Hawkeyes finished at 5-6-7 overall and missed out on the Big Ten Tournament.

While Iowa had its struggles, Rydberg still had a solid year with four assists, along with a team-leading five goals and 14 points.

Rydberg said she’s thankful for the extra year she spent with the Hawkeyes in 2022. Knowing this was her last season, she said she gave everything she had both as a player and as a leader.

The attacking midfielder said her fifth season was another chance for her to grow and learn from the coaching staff.

“I’ve always had a great relationship with [head coach Dave DiIanni],” Rydberg said. “He’s always been super helpful. Not even just with soccer, but just with school and becoming a good person. His thing is, he just wants us all to come out of this as the best versions of ourselves. And I think that for myself, I can say I truly do feel like that.”

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Rydberg said now that her college career is over, she’s leaning toward moving on from soccer and not pursuing a professional career.

Set to graduate in December, the psychology major said she’s looking for jobs in that field.

“The bigger picture behind the Iowa soccer program is something that is really important to me that I’ll continue to carry throughout my life,” Rydberg said. “Your organization, your time management, like it has to be on point if you want to be a successful student-athlete. So, I really think all of those things combined have shaped me into who I am today.”

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