Nov. 5, 2012
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 -- After completing its most successful two-year stretch in program history, in a period in which they've literally rewritten the record books, it's no secret the University of Iowa women's soccer program is on the rise.
UI head coach Ron Rainey found evidence of that this season when teams in the conference began preparing for the Hawkeyes much more diligently. After consecutive one-win Big Ten seasons, Iowa was able to sneak up on the league in 2011 en route to 13 victories and the most successful season in program history. Iowa recently finished another successful campaign last Wednesday at the Big Ten Tournament, capping a 12-win season.
But, this time around, the Hawkeyes certainly weren't sneaking up on anybody.
"Once you start getting better against teams in your league, you'll gain their respect and see the best from them when you play," said Rainey. "I thought that was the case this season as opposed to last year. Teams performed better against us, and were prepared to play against a tough Iowa team."
The additional attention from conference opponents didn't stop the Hawkeyes from reaching the Big Ten Tournament for the second straight season and the seventh time in program history. The Hawkeyes met top-seeded Penn State, and took 33 shots before falling, 2-0. Iowa finished the season with a 12-6-3 record.
Iowa has won 25 matches over the past two seasons, and set or tied 10 program records. Iowa went perfect in nonconference play.
"Over my seven years here, there has been an evolution in our teams toward believing they can win and compete with the upper-echelon teams in the league, and then they being able to step on the field and reach those goals."
UI head coach Ron Rainey
"Over my seven years here, there has been an evolution in our teams toward believing they can win and compete with the upper-echelon teams in the league, and then they being able to step on the field and reach those goals," said Rainey.
Although the 2013 season is a long way down the road and Rainey and the Hawkeyes are still reflecting on this season, the prospect of returning so much talent has the program poised to continue its incline. Iowa will return 8-of-11 starters, and 18 players, all of which were letterwinners this season.
The Hawkeyes will look to replace seniors Allie Adam, Gabby Ainsworth, Stef Campbell, Dana Dalrymple, Jade Grimm and Kat Lewis. Replacing a senior class is always a difficult task, but returning eight starters and three of the team's top four scorers should soften the blow.
"At this point, we are still in the transition stage of reflecting back on the things that went well this season, and looking forward to what we need to get better with," said Rainey. "It's great to have so many good players coming back, but it's also sad knowing we won't have those seniors that have worked so hard the past four years."
Although Iowa has enjoyed its winningest two-year stretch in program history, it's all about keeping the same hard-working ethic according to Rainey. With Iowa on the cusp of taking the next step, it's a strong work ethic that Rainey expects can push them over the edge.
"I hope everyone in our team is excited about the direction of our team, and they realize how much work is in front of us," said Rainey. "We know we have to keep working harder, and in the end, hopefully that will help us take the next step for this program."