ISU soccer to face stiff road tests at West Virginia, Oklahoma


Brian Achenbach/Iowa State Daily

No. 33 sophomore midfielder Haley Albert headers away a Kansas cross during Iowa State’s 0-0 double overtime tie with the Jayhawks on Oct. 4 at the Cyclone Sports Complex.

Alex Gookin

The ISU soccer team was in action twice last weekend and didn’t win either game, but it didn’t lose them either.

Goalkeeper Maddie Jobe recorded a shutout and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, but didn’t record a win. Instead, the Cyclones head into road games against Big 12-leader West Virginia (9-2-2, 3-0 Big 12) and Oklahoma (3-8-1, 0-2 Big 12) feeling they have something to prove.

“I wouldn’t say we are happy about [the ties], but we will take it,” said ISU coach Wendy Dillinger. “To get a point against Kansas, we were excited about the performance we had, but that game easily could have been in our pocket.”

In 220 minutes of action last weekend against Kansas and Drake, the Cyclones had 41 shots and just one goal. Jobe recorded nine saves and allowed one goal.

ISU forward Hayley Womack feels the lack of scoring has been a product of breakdowns in the final third of the field. Shots that should be taken have been left on the field and unnecessary shots aren’t making it into the goal.

Even so, Iowa State is not discouraged with the performance last weekend. For Dillinger, the defense played some of its best soccer all year in the last four games. Preparing for this weekend, however, could prove to be a different ball game.

The Cyclones take on West Virginia, whose 2.54 goal-per-game average ranks 18th nationally and second in the Big 12, only behind Texas Tech.

“We are going to have to have all 11 players defending,” Dillinger said. “It’s going to have to be a complete team effort. We are sound defensively, we are smart, and we take care of the ball, and that’s the big thing.”

Iowa State has faced similar defensive road tests against Santa Clara and Stanford, who both rank in the top 50 nationally in scoring offense. Texas Tech also provided a test, as it ranked one spot ahead of West Virginia nationally at No. 17 in scoring offense.

However, Dillinger said each team in the Big 12 offers something different, and no two offenses are the same. Texas Tech runs perhaps the most unique offense with a 4-4-2 box-set in the middle, meaning all defensive strategy that worked against the Red Raiders goes out the window against West Virginia.

A player vital to the defensive attack will be Haley Albert. The 6-foot-1-inch sophomore provides the biggest body on the team and an aggressive style of play that can force offenses in the opposite direction.

Perhaps even more important has been her contributions offensively as of late. Albert has scored two of the Cyclones’ last three goals, both off headers on corner kick crosses. With games focusing on a defense-first mindset, Albert may find her time to change the game on the road this weekend.

“I’ve always been the taller person to go ahead and score off the header, which I’ve gotten better at this year,” Albert said. “The offense works hard to get down there and get the corner kick, so it’s my job to finish when it’s my turn.”

After the trip to West Virginia, the team will hop on a plane to take on Oklahoma. Even with their early-season struggles, the Sooners may provide a challenge for the Cyclones with a road game and short break.

As for the team’s attitude, there is no shortage of confidence as Iowa State sit in seventh place in the Big 12 heading into this weekend’s matchups.

“We owe it to ourselves, we’ve been working hard all year,” Albert said. “We want to go out there and prove we are a team everyone needs to recognize so we will go out there to prove everyone wrong and try to get two wins this weekend.”