Iowa soccer continues to progress under 2nd-year coach

Matt Cozzi
Dave DiIanni

So much change took place since last year for the Iowa soccer team, yet so much will stay the same.

At least for now.

Iowa lost 10 players to graduation from a team that went 14-7-1 (7-5-1 Big Ten) in 2014. The 14 total wins ranked second in school history, while the seven Big Ten victories tied the school record for the most conference wins in a single season.

A lot of that success hinged on the Hawkeyes' defense, which finished better than 35th nationally in shutout percentage, saves percentage and goals against average.

Only five starters return this season and 19 players on Iowa's roster are either in their first or second year with the program, so the game plan again will be to lean on defense.

"It's going to be a team effort," Iowa coach Dave DiIanni said at the team's media day Tuesday. "I don't think it's going to be one individual. Looking at the group, there's going to be a lot of goals scored by five or six different players. Maybe not one person scoring 12-15 goals, it's going to be five or six people scoring four or five goals."

The five returning starters for the Hawkeyes are senior goalie Hannah Clark, junior defenders Amanda Lulek and Corey Burns, junior midfielder Natalie Krygier, and junior forward Bri Toelle.

Despite the turnover, Iowa can reflect on those near program-record win totals it produced last fall in DiIanni's first year at the helm — with hopes of repeating that progress. The Hawkeyes also finished runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament in 2014.

"It's great to have success under us, but we also need to work hard this year," Lulek said. "We have a lot of new people. Dave's settled in and we're used to his coaching style now, so he can really throw stuff at us and we can learn a lot.

"Having those wins behind us is just motivation for us as upperclassmen who have been here, but also for the new girls to see that 'oh, we need to own up to this, we're a good team.' We need to keep that reputation."

Lulek is content with Iowa's identity as an offensive-stopper.

Only three matches weren't decided by two goals or less last season. The Hawkeyes were 9-6-1 in matches decided by one goal or less.

"We had great leaders and strong players in the back last year," Lulek said. "This year there's going to be a lot of people that need to step up and take on a higher leadership role than they might have last year. It's going to be about communication and the step up that people take."

While there is typically a negative connotation to having an inexperienced club, DiIanni notes there is also an upside as Iowa continues to evolve.

The Black and Gold open the 2015 campaign with four straight home matches, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday against Pacific.

"The hand we've been dealt is very young, but the good part about youth is they're very open to learning and there's a lot of energy and there's a lot of excitement," DiIanni said. "We're going to try and take advantage of that."

Reach Matt Cozzi at or 319-887-5409, and follow him on Twitter at @matt_cozzi.