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

Iowa women’s soccer hopes to carry hot form into second round of NCAA Tournament

The Hawkeyes have won four matches in a row heading into their second-round matchup against Georgia.
Theodore Retsinas
Iowa midfielder Josie Durr goes for a header during a women’s soccer game between Iowa and Rutgers at the Iowa Soccer Complex in Iowa City on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.

The Iowa women’s soccer team will play SEC Tournament champion Georgia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Clemson, South Carolina.

This will be the first meeting between the two programs. It also marks the first time the Hawkeyes will play an SEC team and the first time the Bulldogs will play a Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament.

The two teams did have one common opponent in Minnesota, and both Georgia and Iowa played the Gophers to a scoreless draw.

The Hawkeyes do have some SEC experience on this team with third-year forward Elle Otto, who transferred from Mississippi State last year. Otto’s SEC experience shows in her play style.

“I feel like the SEC is more physical,” Otto said. “So I learned how to hold up [the ball] on bigger players and more physical players, and I brought that to [Iowa], which has helped me a lot.”

Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni has been very impressed with Otto’s play. He said she is “unbelievable” and a “warrior.”

He also said Otto plays like she’s six feet tall with the way she can play with her back to the goal.

RELATED: Iowa women’s soccer beats bucknell 2-0 in overtime thriller of NCAA tournament

There were some injury concerns for Iowa going into this match with fourth-year midfielders Rielee Fetty and Maggie Johnston, as they both left the Bucknell match early. But DiIanni said he expects them to play, and that it’s not anything major.

“Obviously, we’re playing well right now. We’re on a four-game win streak,” veteran midfielder Josie Durr said. “Playing off the momentum that we’ve gotten these last few games will be extremely important going into Georgia because they’re a very good team.”

The Bulldogs’ points leader is midfielder Nicole Vernis with five goals and seven assists this season for 17 points.

The leader in goals for Georgia is forward Hannah White, who scored six this season after transferring from USC.

But the Hawkeyes’ defense is also in hot form, not allowing a single opposing goal in the last three matches.

On top of the defense’s hot form, Durr has stepped up for Iowa this postseason. She scored the winning goal in the Big Ten Tournament Championship against Wisconsin on Nov. 5 and scored the go-ahead goal in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Bucknell on Nov. 10.

“Josie seems to be very engaged in the moment,” DiIanni said. “I think she really is enjoying this team and wants to play and to have this season extended as far as possible.”

Midfielder Kelli McGroarty has also been big this postseason.

The La Salle transfer scored the winning goal in overtime against Penn State on Nov. 2 during the Hawkeyes’ unlikely run in the Big Ten Tournament. She also further secured the first round victory in the NCAA Tournament, scoring the second overtime goal against Bucknell.

“I think we’ve been led by somebody different every game,” DiIanni said. “For a couple of games Kelli McGroarty, and then also [fifth-year defender] Sam Cary has been pretty consistent.”

The Hawkeyes hope the strong mentality they’ve had all season will give them an edge against Georgia.

“We’ll do anything to win a game,” DiIanni said. “And our kids are pretty resilient and pretty good with adversity.”

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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.
Theodore Retsinas
Theodore Retsinas, Photojournalist
Theodore Retsinas is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Neuroscience.