The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The Iowa women’s soccer team’s dynamic duo: Elle Otto and Kenzie Rolling

The two forwards have a great connection both on and off the pitch.
Emily Nyberg
Iowa midfielder Elle Otto dribbles the ball during a soccer game between Iowa and Kansas City at the University of Iowa Soccer Complex on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Roos 2-0.

Junior forwards Elle Otto and Kenzie Roling have been key to the Iowa women’s soccer team’s 6-0-1 record to open the season, the program’s best start since 2019.

Otto leads Iowa with three goals while Roling leads the Hawkeyes with four assists.

“[Roling] makes such an impact on the field,” Otto said. “The tempo is just faster, and she knows how to play with me.”

On the field, Roling and Otto’s dynamic has been important in attack with both players offering a different skill set.

Otto is great on the ball and is comfortable and confident in possession, allowing the attack to develop. Roling said that she’s grown and learned a lot by working with Otto, especially in her passing ability.

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Otto plays one-two passes with sophomore forward Shae Doherty on the right. This creates opportunities for Doherty to get forward and shoot or put a cross into the box for Roling to apply the finishing touch.

“They just play so well off each other,” Doherty said. “If I make a run to the endline, it’s not going to go to waste because they will do everything, they can to get to the end of it.”

When it comes to speed, Roling has plenty of space behind the opposition’s back line and stretch defenses to create gaps for Iowa’s midfielders to fill in the attack.

Roling said neither her nor Otto are selfish players, and Iowa’s head coach Dave DiIanni wants to see them shoot the ball a little more. DiIanni said that Otto’s transfer to the Hawkeyes has been “a godsend.”

“We’re both people that want to win the ball back,” Otto said. “But we both obviously have our different strengths.”

Otto thinks Roling has played a massive role in all the team’s wins this year. Doherty added that Roling’s consistent work ethic and willingness to put her body on the line have been crucial to begin this season.

But the key to Roling and Otto’s success is their relationship off the field. The two have been best friends since Otto’s transfer from Mississippi State to Iowa in the fall of 2022.

Their friendship came about after DiIanni talked to Roling hoping she could help find a place for Otto to live.  Roling was in between places too, so she gave Otto a call and they ended up living together. Roling said from day one the two have been incredibly close and that they do almost everything together.

“Elle and I always joke that we have this telepathy,” Roling said. “I always know where she’s going to be. I don’t know how. She doesn’t know how either.”

Both Roling and Otto noted how great it is to have one another lift each other up when they’re having a down game. Both players said they love playing with the other and they’re excited to see what the rest of the season has in store.

“I’m so grateful she transferred in,” Roling said, “because I don’t know what I do without her.”

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About the Contributors
Isaac Elzinga
Isaac Elzinga, Sports Reporter
Isaac Elzinga is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass communication. This is his first year working at The Daily Iowan; he also works as a producer for 1600 ESPN a sports radio station in Cedar Rapids.
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.