Sept. 14, 2011
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, July 28, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2011-12 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Morgan Showalter is taking a step back during her final season of soccer at the University of Iowa.
Showalter, a veteran at the forward and midfield positions, has moved to the back of the field this fall as a defender. That's a spot she hasn't played since high school as a member of the Olympic Development Program when her coach was Ron Rainey; the same Ron Rainey who she has played for the past four seasons as a Hawkeye.
"It's kind of weird changing to the back during my senior year; I played midfield since I was a freshman," Showalter said. "I don't mind it. I like playing next to freshmen who push me."
The move actually grew legs in the offseason when Showalter noticed the Hawkeyes lacked depth in that area.
"Learning to play the back came in handy this spring when we were down numbers," Showalter said. "I kind of took over that position and boom, here I am today, playing in the back."
The move appears to have paid off, at least in the early stages. The Hawkeyes are 7-0 and have outscored opponents 27-5. Showalter has five assists. It is the first time an Iowa soccer team has opened a season with seven consecutive wins.
"The back is an area we need to strengthen, and if we're a team that's going to progress in the Big Ten, we have to cut down on the amount of goals we give up," Rainey said. "However, if she's in the back, she still needs to find ways to get forward three or four times a half to score goals and garner assists."
As a freshman in 2008, Showalter compiled nine assists to go with a goal for 11 points. She attempted 37 shots and accumulated 17 points as a sophomore, netting a career-best six goals (to go with five assists) in the process. Last season Showalter scored five goals with four assists and led the team with 14 points. She was named to the Big Ten all-Freshman team as a midfielder in 2008, and she was the Hawkeyes' offensive player of the year in 2009.
"Our class is a solid six of us, and to be honest, we had a hard time picking captains," Showalter said. "We had six names in the basket and they were all seniors. That just proves that our class wants to be the class that goes out making the NCAA Tournament."
After four seasons of hovering at or near the .500 mark (34-39-8 since 2007), Showalter and the Hawkeyes look at 2011 as a breakout opportunity.
"All the seniors have a sense of urgency to want to leave their mark on the season and program," Rainey said. "The little things in practice that Morgan has done to get people moving, to get them more intense and to get them to cut down on mental errors has been nice to see."
Showalter agrees that playing at a high level and pushing others in practice is her strength. Another strength is putting the good of the team before individual statistics, as evidenced by embracing a position change.
"The girl that plays in front of me in the midfield is a born forward, so pushing her up gives me space and I like doing that," Showalter said. "I like being able to push her up as a forward because we only play with one forward right now."
It didn't require much convincing for Showalter to become a Hawkeye. She grew up in nearby Cedar Rapids with a family of UI supporters, which made her verbal commitment as a high school junior somewhat of a formality.
"I love it," Showalter said. "Something about growing up with no professional teams; the Hawkeyes are what you learn to love."
Showalter peeked at other colleges, but a meeting with then-Hawkeye Jackie Kaeding sold her on the importance of playing in front of a familiar -- and local -- support group.
"I listened to Jackie talk about being from Iowa City and the support that she received," Showalter said. "I love having my parents at every game and a lot of my other family comes to the games."
She also enjoys the coaching staff. Rainey is in his sixth season and he is assisted by Shane Meridith and Jaimel Johnson. The year before Rainey took over, the Hawkeyes finished 3-12-4; the lowest win total for a Rainey-coached team is six in 2006.
"All three coaches are a great balance of each other," Showalter said. "There's Ron, who can be serious and he is the top-figure, dad-guy. Then there is Jaimel and Shane, who are completely opposites of coach Rainey. They are more goofy and yell a lot, and I like the balance of all three of them."
Showalter is majoring in graphic design, and she will graduate in the spring of 2012. Although she loves her area of academic interest, she hopes to keep the soccer cleats on for a while after she has a diploma in hand.
"I hope it's not right after college," Showalter said. "I plan to play somewhere at least. I've had friends who played at other colleges, and they've gone on and played for (Women's Premier Soccer League) teams, so that would definitely be a goal of mine."
Not only is Showalter close with the five other members of the senior class, but she said she practices and competes with 27 people she enjoys and trusts.
"I could go up to anyone of them and tell them a personal problem and not think they're going to tell someone else about it," Showalter said. "Or I could go have a laugh with any of them. There are 27 of us and to think I have 27 friends that I can call really good friends...I feel a lot of people don't have that when they leave college."
The Hawkeyes host Northern Iowa tonight beginning at 7 p.m.