Cyclone soccer team seeks good health and more success in 2019


Emily Berch/Iowa State Daily

Then-sophomore Kassi Ginther battles for control of the ball during the game against the University of Norther Iowa on Sept. 6, 2018. Iowa State lost 0-1.

Sam Stuve

This season, the Iowa State soccer team will be without three of its top five players in points, midfielders Klasey Medelberg, Kasey Opfer and Emily Steil as well its three captains last season, Steil and defenders Riley Behan and Jordan Enga. 

However, the Cyclones seem to have the pieces to build a solid foundation for the years to come, if players can stay healthy.

Iowa State has 31 players on their roster — 18 of which are underclassmen.

Team co-captain — redshirt junior Carly Langhurst — sees the team’s youth as a strength.

“Having a younger team almost makes it more competitive, and they’ve provided good energy,” Langhurst said. 

In the class of 2019 recruiting, the Cyclones signed 11 players who now have their first practices under their belt. 

“They’re doing really well right now,” coach Tony Minatta said. “You don’t want to put a lot of pressure on them because it’s just the first few days of camp, but they’ve impressed [me] by pushing the pace, being very good on the ball and they came in very fit.”

With the Cyclones being a young team, some of those freshmen could see some playing time this season.

“Two are pushing to start right now, while another four or five are pushing to play,” Minatta said.

The two freshmen that Minatta mentioned as potential starters are defender — center back — Olivia Wee and midfielder Claudia Najera.

Wee played high school soccer at Ankeny Centennial High School in Ankeny, Iowa, and Najera played at St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, Illinois.

“Wee is an athletically-gifted human being, but she’s also good technically and plays with a fire so she’s fun to watch,” Minatta said. “She’s very creative, fit and can get back and defend.”

With new players coming in, it becomes vital that those players mesh well with the returning players — and that is exactly what co-captain, sophomore Tavin Hays, says is happening.

“They know what they need to be doing and they take it and do it with grace,” Hays said. “They add to the team’s positivity and chemistry.”

Iowa State aims to build off of the strong finish to the 2018 season that saw them win their last two out of three games.

Last season, Iowa State was 2-13-2 — ninth place out of ten in the Big 12 — and needing two wins in the final two games of the regular season and two losses by Oklahoma State to make the Big 12 tournament.

The Cyclones went on the road to defeat Oklahoma State 2-0 and finished off the Kansas State Wildcats in Ames 1-0 while Oklahoma State lost to TCU 3-2, which gave Iowa State an eighth-place finish in the Big 12 and a spot in the conference tournament.

Iowa State would go on to lose to Baylor 3-0 in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament.

The Cyclones finished the season 4-14-2 in 2018. One of the things that kept the Cyclones from winning in 2018 were injuries.

Before the 2018 season started, Iowa State lost now-redshirt junior defender Carly Langhurst and redshirt sophomore midfielder Abigail Harbin to injury.

Langhurst and Harbin had a combined eight starts in the 2017 season.

Another Iowa State player who suffered a season-ending injury before the 2018 season stated, and is healthy now, is redshirt freshman forward Kenady Adams.

Adams was one of the Cyclones’ most highly-touted freshman coming into last season, but was forced to sit out due to an ACL injury. 

“She looks very good. She’s very fast, very good on the ball and she has a good connection with Kassi [Ginther],” Minatta said.

Ginther scored the highest amount of goals of any Cyclone last season with four goals — all of which came in conference play. 

After the first game of last season against South Dakota State, Behan suffered a foot injury that caused her to miss the rest of her senior season and ended her playing career at Iowa State.

Just before conference play began in mid-September last season, senior midfielder Hannah Cade, who led the team in assists at that time, suffered a foot injury that caused her to miss nearly a month of action and she did not return to the starting lineup.

To combat the injury bug that has affected the team, Minatta made some changes in the offseason.

“Jovon Shaw has come in as our strength and conditioning coach, and what he’s done with them is having them focus on their movement and the efficiency in which they move,” Minatta said. “Our athletic trainer Daniele Petty has come in and she’s done a great job of making sure the players are getting the recovery they need.”

If players who have earned playing time do happen to suffer an injury, it’ll require a bench player to be prepared to fill that role.

“We have a lot of players who are willing to step up and take on that role,” said co-captain and midfielder Marin Daniel. 

Statistically speaking, the Cyclones did not have a great season, as it was outscored 18-33. 

Out of the 14 losses in 2018, nine of Iowa State’s losses either came after its opponents scored a goal in the final 10 minutes of the game or in overtime.

“Our mentality is different this year than it was last year as well as in previous years; we know what it takes now to win those games and we’ll be able to push through and fight it out,” Cade said.

The goalkeeper in 2018 was junior Dayja Schwichtenberg. Schwichtenberg made 103 saves, which was first in the Big 12 and tied for 24th nationally. However, she was only ninth out of 11 in save percentage, at 0.757.

Schwichtenberg will be at goalkeeper for Iowa State this season, and will anchor a solid defense.

In total, the Cyclones will return seven out of the 11 players that started in the Big 12 tournament along with a handful of players who made starts previously.

Two of the three players who scored three or more goals last season for Iowa State, Ginther and junior forward Courtney Powell, are back.

The Cyclones’ non-conference schedule does not do them a lot of favors, as they will play seven out of its nine non-conference games on the road, and take a trip to Los Angeles to face fourth-ranked UCLA on Aug. 23 and the Cy-Hawk game against Iowa on Aug. 29 in Iowa City.