ISU soccer finding identity through nonconference schedule


Freshman forward No. 2 Koree Willer weaves through North Dakota players during Iowa State’s 4-0 rout of North Dakota on Sept. 8 at the Cyclone Sports Complex.

Alex Gookin

To a casual fan, the state of the ISU soccer may be less than favorable position heading into a matchup against in-state rival Northern Iowa. But don’t tell that to ISU coach Wendy Dillinger.

The Cyclones (4-4) might have a 1-4 record in the month of September, and Iowa State has had its fair share of nonconference challenges.

Yet even after being outscored 8-2 in games against Santa Clara and Stanford, Dillinger has seen improvement.

“The thing that was encouraging for our team was scoring first against Santa Clara,” Dillinger said. “Heading into Stanford, knowing they were ranked third in the country, just to be able to stay in games with teams of that caliber was very encouraging.”

There has been no shortage of talent on the nonconference schedule. Iowa State’s four losses come to teams with a combined record of 24-3-1.

Despite being outscored 3-0 in the second half against Santa Clara, the Cyclones stayed competitive for much of the game. The now No. 22 Broncos capitalized on a few ISU miscues to pull away in the second half.

Even more encouraging was the performance against now No. 2 Stanford. After a hard-fought first half, ISU forward Jennifer Dominguez scored in the opening 15 seconds of the second half to tie the game.

Stanford was able to outscore Iowa State and hold on to a 3-1 win.

The Cyclones were helped by strong performances from goalkeeper Maddie Jobe and Dominguez. Jobe recorded 10 saves in each game in Iowa State’s trip to California.

“Maddie Jobe was phenomenal against Stanford,” Dillinger said. “She’s been a steady, consistent performer.”

Dominguez cemented herself as the team’s offensive leader, leading the team in points through eight games into the season. She currently ranks third all-time in ISU history for points scored.

However, in a team led by a strong senior class, an outlier is paving the way for the future. Freshman forward Koree Willer is turning heads and is second on the team in scoring behind Dominguez.

“I’m definitely thankful for the opportunities I’ve had,” Willer said. “I couldn’t have obviously done it without the team. I wanted to make as much of an impact as I could and it’s been good so far.”

Heading into the final two nonconference games, Willer has two goals and an assist. Both goals she hit home ended up being game-winners.

Willer is one-of-six Cyclones hailing from Fort Collins, Colo. All were coached in club soccer by ISU assistant coach Tony Minatta, who is in his second year of coaching with Iowa State.

While Willer’s impact has been noticeable on the field, she said she has to work on being a leader in the future before the senior class leaves. Even with Willer’s current success, Dillinger sees untapped potential in the freshman.

“She is talented,” Dillinger said of Willer. “But recognizing and realizing that she can change the game at will, that’s something she will gain through experience.

“She is a scoring threat every time she gets the ball and she needs to realize that.”

The Cyclones have a prime opportunity to head into the conference schedule on a high note, facing two teams with only one win each with those against Northern Iowa (1-7-0) and St. Louis (1-6-1). The Cyclones are scheduled to face the Panthers at 7 p.m. Friday in Waterloo, Iowa.