Something new, something old, something bought for soccer team

The Iowa State soccer players rest after the game. The Cyclones lost the game 2-0 to Baylor.

Cory Weaver

It’s a big year for the ISU soccer team. From a new venue to a new assistant coach to new opponents, there is a lot going on for a team that has the tools to make an impact in 2012.

Last season, a common theme with coach Wendy Dillinger’s squad was not being able to close out games and giving up late goals.

But with a new year comes a clean slate, and junior forward Jennifer Dominguez believes this year will be different.

“I think I can feel that nobody wants that feeling of last year and coming up short time after time and time and again,” Dominguez said. “We know that we’re right there, and I feel like the mentality may be a little bit better this season in terms of a little bit hungrier to do a lot better.”

The new

After serving as an assistant coach on Dillinger’s staff for four seasons, Ben Madsen left the team in February for a similar position at Auburn University in Alabama.

His replacement was announced last spring, a long-time club coach who wanted to take his coaching to the next level. Tony Minatta, of the Fort Collins (Colo.) Soccer Club, began working with the team in the spring, and Dominguez said they’ve already made improvements with the new coach.

“I know that we got to work with Tony [Minatta] in the spring and made great strides with him, and I think we’re all really excited to have him for the fall and see what we can do,” Dominguez said.

Besides having a new face on their own sidelines, the team will see many new ones on the other side as well once the conference season begins. Texas Christian and West Virginia joined the Big 12 last winter after Texas A&M and Missouri decided to part ways.

Both teams were competitive in their previous conferences, with West Virginia winning the Big East last season, and Dominguez thinks it will more than balance out the loss of Texas A&M.

“Adding West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 is only increasing the strength of our conference and giving us even better competition, so we’re all really excited about that,” Dominguez said.

The old

While this year’s juniors are not old in terms of age, what was the 16-person freshman class two years ago now comes in with two full seasons under their belts.

It couldn’t come at a more opportune time either, after the team graduated captain and four-year starter Mary Kate McLaughlin last year. Dillinger said you can’t truly replace a player like McLaughlin but also said she helped groom who she hopes will be new leaders.

“We’re going to miss her, but at the same time, she did a great job in leading and preparing our youngsters, our junior class especially,” Dillinger said.

Over the last two seasons, the junior class has scored 35 of the team’s 47 total goals, nearly 75 percent.

The difference this year, Dillinger said, is they know what is expected of them and what to expect of their opponents.

“They know what the requirements are, and there’s not going to be any surprises because they get it,” Dillinger said. “There’s a lot of leadership in that group; we’re not looking at one player to lead the team. There’s eight or nine of them that are doing a great job in that aspect.”

The bought

The ISU Soccer Complex has been home to the soccer team since 1995, when ISU women’s soccer began.

Beginning this season, the team moves its games to the south side of town by the Wallace and Wilson residence halls at the new Cyclone Sports Complex. The ISU soccer, softball and track teams will call it home, and the Cyclones have the perfect opportunity to start it off on the right foot.

“Our goal this year is, obviously, to beat Iowa,” said Dillinger. “That’s the opening of our new facility, we’re going to have them here on our turf in our place, a big opening weekend for the new Cyclone Sports Complex, so that’s going to be one of very early season goals.”

The Cyclones start the season with a pair of road games in Omaha, Neb., beginning Aug. 17 and then head down Interstate 80 to Lincoln for a pair Aug. 24 and 26.

The following weekend, Iowa comes to town Aug. 31 for the first home game of the year. Game time is set for 8 p.m. and will be the first time the two rivals have played since the 4-1 Hawkeye victory in Iowa City last season.