This season was not a storybook season for the Iowa women’s soccer team. The Hawks finished the regular season just 2-8-1 overall in a COVID-impacted schedule. That put them in 12th place in the Big Ten standings at season’s end.
Not a good year by just about any standard. And yet, here we are, covering the women’s soccer team on the final day of April.
Why? Because the last three weeks have seen the Hawkeyes on an absolute tear. What started as a fluke that saw the 12th seed make the Big Ten Tournament by way of circumstance in a COVID year, has turned into an absolute sensation with the Hawkeyes rattling off five straight wins while scoring seven goals and allowing just one.
That all started with a 2-1 round one OT victory over second-seeded Illinois on freshman Meike Ingles’ first career goal in the 93rd minute.
With the win, Iowa advanced to play third seed Minnesota in the second round. Ingles drew first blood with her second career goal while Samantha Tawharu added a second first half score to give the Hawkeyes a 2-0 advantage. Iowa would not look back pitching just their fourth shutout of the season.
The win advanced Iowa out of the regionals and into a semifinal matchup with #4 Penn State. Again it was freshman Meike Ingles scoring her third career goal in as many games to give Iowa just their third ever win over Penn State and the first in program history in Happy Valley. They did so in harrowing fashion, playing the final 30 minutes with 10 players to defeat its highest-ranked opponent in school history.
The win advanced Iowa to the Big Ten Championship and a matchup against the Wisconsin Badgers. It was a defensive struggle but the Hawkeyes battled as junior Jenny Cape scored in the 63rd minute off assists from Ingles and Tawharu to give the Hawkeyes a 1-0 win. It was the sixth shutout of the year for Iowa as freshman goalkeeper Macy Enneking pitched her second clean sheet of the tournament.
The win gave the Hawkeyes their first ever Big Ten Championship in program history. Iowas becomes the lowest seeded team to ever win a Big Ten Tournament, which typically only allows the top eight teams to compete.
Enneking was named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the Big Ten Tournament after posting the two shutouts and making 14 total saves. She was also named to the all-tournament team along with Ingles, Tawharu and Hailey Rydberg.
The win made the Hawkeyes an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, marking the third time in program history Iowa has made the tournament. It’s the second straight season the Hawkeyes have qualified after being chosen as an at-large bid in 2019 when Iowa finished the year 15-5-1.
In the first round, Iowa was matched up with Big South champion Campbell. The Camels came in averaging with the third most shots per game (19) in the nation. The Hawkeyes, however, jumped on Campbell quickly as junior Sara Wheaton picked up her second goal of the season on a corner from Samantha Cary. Despite the attacking Camels, Iowa’s back line held strong allowing just 5 shots while Enneking had three clutch saves to get the 1-0 win.
Check out that NCAA Championship First Round winner! pic.twitter.com/8gbE51yGGO— Hawkeye Soccer (@HawkeyeSoccer) April 28, 2021
The win was Iowa’s first in the NCAA Tournament in program history and the fifth straight win overall for the Hawkeyes. They improve to 7-8-1 overall and 7-2 dating back to March 21st. The Hawkeyes advance to the Round of 32 where they will take on third seed UCLA at 2 pm CT today.
The Bruins enter today’s match 12-1-2 overall and fresh off a first round bye after winning the Pac-12 Conference championship. UCLA has outscored their opponents 33-11 on the year with seven shutouts. The Bruins have the Pac-12 Goalkeeper, Midfielder, Freshman and Coach of the Year.
Despite the tough challenge ahead, the Hawkeyes have already made a Cinderella run to be proud of. Sophomore Samantha Cary told Hawkeye Sports there’s nothing to be scared of:
“What’s there not to be excited about? We’re in the NCAA Tournament, we got our first win in program history against Campbell, and yes, UCLA is a great team and there is a lot of respect for them, but this team has been the underdog the entirety of this season.
UCLA is going to give us a challenge, but we’re excited to rise to the occasion. We’ve been on this magical run and we want it to continue.
It truly has been remarkable and deserving of more coverage. Should the Hawkeyes continue that magical run to the program’s first ever Sweet Sixteen, you can bet the attention will come
Today’s match, which is set to start at 2 pm CT will be streamed live on ESPN3. Should the Hawkeyes win, they would advance to take on the winner of Rutgers and Clemson at 5pm CT next Wednesday.