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

Column | Iowa women’s soccer set up for success after historic postseason run

The Hawkeyes have an excellent foundation to build on despite key players graduating.
Grace Smith
Iowa defender Sam Cary hoists the Big Ten Trophy as Iowa soccer gets recognized during a home opener basketball game between No. 3 Iowa and Fairleigh Dickinson at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. The Hawkeyes, defeated the Knights, 102-46.

The Iowa women’s soccer team’s season ended after a 3-2 loss to SEC champion Georgia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 17.

The Hawkeyes had a historic 2023 season. They went 6-0-1 in the non-conference, their best start since 2019, and became the first eight seed to win the Big Ten Championship.

Iowa was named a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the tournament came through Iowa City for the first time in program history. The Hawkeye faithful showed up for the historic night, setting a new record with 2,639 fans in attendance.

The Hawkeyes were solid on the defensive side. Iowa let in just 17 goals over 22 games this season. Opposing teams struggled with Iowa’s high press and physicality. 

Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni preached about a “blue-collar mentality,” and the group embraced that philosophy throughout the season.

Senior goalkeeper Macy Enneking played a significant role in the team’s defensive success. Enneking ended the year with 12.5 shutouts, setting a new single-season record for the program, and she was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team.

The team used different formations depending on the opponent, showing tactical flexibility. There were matches where Iowa would dominate possession and hold the ball for most of the game,  but there were instances where the Hawkeyes would sit back and soak up pressure, hit teams on a counterattack, and use their speed to their advantage. 

DiIanni and his staff played to the team’s strengths and put the players in the best position to succeed. He instilled confidence in this group and prepared them to play in the postseason. 

Room to improve

The Hawkeyes consistently outshot the opposition but weren’t the most clinical finishers. A 1-1 draw against Illinois on Sep. 17, a 2-1 loss against Northwestern on Oct. 12, and a 1-1 draw against Michigan on Oct. 19 are all games that Iowa outshot its opponent by seven and could have won if the team had been more clinical. 

Key losses

Cary was crucial not only on the field but also off it. Cary earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and won Defensive Player of the Big Ten Tournament due to her consistent high-level play this year. 

Cary’s leadership was essential in helping the first-year students become acclimated to collegiate play. 

Rookie defender Eva Pattison and midfielder Millie Greer were consistent starters and, throughout the season, credited Cary’s encouragement as a leading factor for their instant success. The Hawkeyes will miss Cary’s play on the field and leadership next season.

Iowa will also miss the services of veteran midfielder Josie Durr. She posted career bests in goals with seven and assists with two. Her aggression and forward runs in the midfield were crucial in creating scoring chances. 

Key underclassmen

The Hawkeyes had several first-year athletes play significant roles on the team this year. Greer started every game on the back line for Iowa, and Pattison saw playing time in almost every match, including 14 starts. They will be vital in maintaining defensive consistency in Cary’s absence. 

Freshmen midfielders Sofia Bush and Abby Skiff also earned playing time this year. Bush started 15 games and tallied three goals and two assists. She was confident and comfortable on the ball, leading to some impressive moments, including one of the season’s best goals against Maryland. 

Skiff also saw playing time in her first year. She didn’t start a game but averaged 30 minutes per game in her 19 appearances — a solid foundation to build on going forward.

Player of the season

This title could’ve gone to so many players this season. Durr had a career year, Cary was a steady performer for the team, and junior forward Elle Otto did a lot of the little things in attack to set up the Iowa offense. But, I ultimately landed on senior midfielder Kelli McGroarty. 

The La Salle transfer had an incredible first year at Iowa. She had seven goals and four assists and was a clutch performer for the Hawkeyes. She had a last-minute equalizer against Illinois, scored and assisted in Iowa’s upset win over top-seeded Michigan State, and scored the game-winner in overtime against No. 5 Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

McGroarty’s work rate and energy on the pitch were infectious. She would powerfully dive into tackles, and sometimes, it seemed like she could run forever. She stepped up as a leader and was always among the first to celebrate a team goal. She has confirmed she will be back for a fifth year, and I expect her to have another great season in 2024.

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About the Contributors
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.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.