WHO: Maryland Terrapins @ Iowa Hawkeyes
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Iowa Soccer Complex, Iowa City, IA
WHEN: Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm (Eastern Time; 2:30 Central)
Maryland opened their inaugural Big Ten season with three straight home games. The reality of their 1-1-1 result was probably less of a B1G bang than the Terps theoretically expected. They now hit the road hoping for some redemption in back to back contests beginning with the Iowa Hawkeyes Thursday afternoon in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes have won four straight since dropping a 2-1 decision at Iowa State while the Terps are coming of a 0-0 tie with Michigan State. Maryland played well enough to get the win against the Spartans but were stymied by their inability to find the back of the net. In addition to their kits, the Terps will carry the baggage of 245 consecutive scoreless minutes onto the pitch in Iowa City.
Hawkeyes on the pitch
The Hawkeyes are coming off the best season in their program's history having racked up a 15-7-1 (5-5-1) record. The 15 wins are the most ever recorded by an Iowa squad. They reached the final of the Big Ten Tournament losing 1-0 to Nebraska. This run was good enough to earn them a place in the NCAA Tournament where they lost to Notre Dame 4-1 in the first round.
The Big Ten coaches must have either thought that last season's performance was something of an anomaly for the Hawkeyes or that other teams had improved significantly and Iowa had not. Despite the fact that Iowa returns 10 of their 11 starters from last season's NCAA Tournament squad, the coaches picked them to finish tied for eighth in their preseason poll.
Per the current RPI rankings, Maryland has played a considerably more strenuous schedule than Iowa through the season's first eight or nine games. Despite a 3-3-2 record the Terps' RPI is 25 while the Hawkeyes have an RPI of 68 despite their 8-1 record. However, as more than one wise coach has said, you can only play the teams on your schedule and the unavoidable fact is that Iowa has played those teams to an 8-1 mark.
The greatest concern for the Terps will be finding the net. As noted above, Maryland haan't scored in more than two and a half games. The inverse coefficient is that they will face an Iowa squad that has picked up seven shutouts in their nine games (including three straight against Big Ten competition) and is consequently yielding under .50 goal per contest. While Michigan and Michigan State appeared to be primarily defensively focused squads generating much of their offense off counter attacks, the Hawkeyes appear far more likely to attack the goal. They average 15 shots per game and have already scored 20 goals this season.
Players to watch
Cloe Lacasse, #20, senior, forward. A Canadian transplant, Lacasse will be one of the all-time greats in Iowa women's soccer when she finishes her career. She is already second all-time in goals and assists and third in points scored. Having led the Hawkeyes in points in each of her first three seasons, the senior is on track to do so again in 2014 with a team leading 18 points on seven goals and four assists.
Melanie Pickert, #22, senior, defender. Like Lacasse, Pickert was a second team All Big Ten selection as a junior. She led the team with seven goals in 2013 with three of those goals coming on penalty kicks. Thus far this season, she has scored four times good for second behind Lacasse.
Bri Toelle, #11, sophomore, midfield / forward. Toelle came on strongly toward the end of her freshman year earning the start in the season's final 11 games. She scored four goals for the season. As a sophomore, she is currently second on the team in points with ten. Her four assists tie her with Lacasse for the team lead.
Goalkeeper This story would be incomplete without some mention of Iowa's two headed monster in goal. Senior Kiley Beck has started five games and junior Hannah Clark has started the other four. They have essentially split the total minutes played and they have nearly identical goals against averages of 0.43 and 0.44 respectively. Beck started the first five games and Clark has started the last four.
Once again, the Terps are breaking new ground. As was the case with Michigan and Michigan State, the two programs have never met on the pitch. So when Maryland takes the field they'll be able to tell the Hawkeyes that this is the first time ever we saw your place (apologies to Roberta Flack). Mediocre musical puns aside, the Terps come into a game where a goal or two and a win could prove to be a turning point of their season.