Iowa soccer: Nine starters return from successful '13 squad

By Matt Cozzi

Original publish date: August 15, 2014

The success Dave Dilanni amassed at Grand Valley State is almost unfathomable.

Dilanni went 221-18-18 at the Division II school, including three national championships and 11-straight NCAA Tournament berths.

Now at the helm of the Iowa soccer team, Dilanni takes that .895 winning percentage over to the Black and Gold, transitioning to a program that had one of its best years in school history in 2013.

The Hawkeyes were 15-7-1 (5-5-1 Big Ten) last year, advancing to both the Big Ten Tournament title game and the NCAA Tournament.

The team returns nine starters, including forward Cloe Lacasse, defender Melanie Pickert and goalie Hannah Clark.

Hired in May, the turnover is not yet complete but close to it.

"The acclimation process is probably still going on for both the girls and myself in terms of identifying who's who — not name-wise but player-wise and skill sets," Dilanni said Friday at Iowa soccer media day. "Last year, they mostly played 11 or 12 players, so we're trying to get a handle on what's happening with the other 12 or 13 that didn't get minutes."

Returning a core of nine players is beneficial regardless of new leadership within the coaching staff, but that means there may not be a lot of time to get acquainted with each other.

Iowa played an exhibition against DePaul on Thursday, falling 1-0.

The Hawkeyes open regular season play Aug. 22 at Northern Iowa.

"They've been fantastic," Dilanni said of the returnees. "Many of them were on the hiring committee, and many of them I've known before I even came here. They've been resilient to something new and are excited about it. But they are also competitors. They want to win and they want to win now."

Ball possession is one of the keys to the system Dilanni is trying to implement at Iowa.

Grand Valley State became an offensive powerhouse under Iowa's new coach, scoring the second-most goals in program history (88) just last season.

Pickert said the team has responded.

"It's a lot more of an attacking mindset," Pickert said. "People are allowed to just kind of show what they want to do and have a little flare. We're confident we can be who we are and let it happen."