Oct. 17, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa women's soccer team has won two straight and 3-of-4 in Big Ten Conference action, but there's no looking ahead or back for the Hawkeyes... it's just on to the next one.
"Our group does a good job of staying focused one game at a time," said UI head coach Ron Rainey, who has guided Iowa to a double-digit win total for a third-straight season. "They reality is, there is no reason not to be. We're three points out of third (place), but also two points out of 10th.
"That's a reflection on how much parity there is in the conference this year. Things will probably play out like it did last year, where it goes right down to the final game of the regular season to decide who moves on to the Big Ten Tournament."
After dropping its first two Big Ten games at home against 15th-ranked Michigan (1-0) and at Illinois (2-1), the Hawkeyes have reeled off three wins in four games.
Iowa edged Northwestern in Evanston (1-0) on Sept. 29 before falling 2-1 at No. 23 Nebraska. The Hawkeyes followed with consecutive victories, downing Michigan State, 1-0, in double overtime Oct. 3 and Indiana, 2-1, in Bloomington on Oct. 6 for its second Big Ten road triumph.
"Our group does a good job of staying focused one game at a time. They reality is, there is no reason not to be. We're three points out of third (place), but also two points out of 10th."
UI head coach Ron Rainey
The common trend in the six league games -- all have been decided by a single goal.
"It has been an interesting year," said Rainey. "We've played a lot of one goal games in the Big Ten, and we could be 5-1 or 1-5 or 6-0 or 0-6. The games have been that equal. The difference in the close games is people stepping up and making one more play a half, both offensively and defensively."
Rainey believes the out-of-conference slate, where Iowa went 5-0 in one-goal games is paying dividends.
"We had more one goal games and maybe that has helped us as we have gotten into the Big Ten season," he said.
Rainey expects more of the same this weekend with Minnesota and Wisconsin on the docket. The Golden Gophers are 9-4-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the conference, while the Badgers are 8-3-2 overall and 3-2-1 in league play. Both teams have RPIs in the top-40 (Minnesota at 21, Wisconsin at 39); Iowa is 57th.
"Minnesota is a good team," said Rainey. "They are very sound defensively and work hard all over the field. They have players that both in the attack and in the back are solid, good Big Ten players."
The Gophers have found the net just twice in Big Ten action, but it has been enough to knock off two top-13 opponents. Minnesota upset No. 13 Michigan, 1-0, in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Sept. 29, and it downed seventh-ranked Penn State by the same score on Oct. 6.
The Gophers are 6-0-1 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium in 2013.
"Minnesota is playing at home, so we have to be ready to come out and be ready from an energy standpoint to go up against that," said Rainey. "They have a good fan base and always have a good home crowd."
It's nothing new for Iowa to be on the road. The team has played in Iowa City just once the last four weeks.
"We have gotten used to being on the road," said Rainey. "But our players know they have to raise their level that much more when they do so."
Friday's game against at Minnesota begins at 7 p.m. (CT), while Sunday's contest at Wisconsin begins at 1 p.m.