Difficult Big 12 season just around corner

Elliott Fifer

After seven games, rain-soaked practices, and a tournament in Las Vegas, the Big 12 Conference season is next up for the ISU soccer team.

Coach Rebecca Hornbacher said the Cyclones (4-1-2) are ready for it.

“I think it’s an exciting part of the year. Obviously, every time we start the Big 12 Conference it’s another race. It’s kind of a second part of the season,” Hornbacher said. “I’m happy with where we finished in nonconference, and I think we’re getting better week by week, but every single team in the Big 12 is strong and every game is a battle. It’s something that our team is definitely up for and they’re looking forward to, and we’re excited to play two quality teams this weekend.”

The conference schedule gets off to a difficult start, as No. 16 Oklahoma State (6-1-1) and Oklahoma (4-2-2) both will pay a visit to the ISU Soccer Complex over the weekend.

“Both of them are very quality teams. Obviously we don’t want to look past Oklahoma State – we’ve got them first and then Oklahoma,” Hornbacher said. “Oklahoma State has had some great results this year, beating Notre Dame away. Getting a win on away turf is always a difficult thing. They’ve got some very, very talented players and an All-American [Yolanda] Odenyo returning as well. They’re just a quality team all over the field. Last year, we battled them to a 3-2 overtime loss and it’s always been a very close game. I expect a very physical and intense, fast-paced game.”

The Cyclones lead the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 5-4-2, with the home team having won the last five meetings. Against Oklahoma, Iowa State leads the all-time series 7-2-2, including an undefeated 5-0-1 in Ames.

Stephanie Kaphingst, a senior midfielder who is no stranger to the difficulty of the Big 12, said the team is ready for the challenge presented by the Cowgirls and Sooners this weekend.

“There are definitely some ranked teams [in the Big 12], but I think if we come out there like we should every game that we should be able to play with anybody,” Kaphingst said. “We’re just out there to prove that we’re a good team and we’re not going to just step aside and let other teams walk all over us. We’re definitely going out there ready to compete and get some wins.”

Picked by the coaches to finish last in the Big 12, the Cyclones feel they have to fight to the final whistle of each game in order to gain the respect of their critics.

“It tells us that they don’t think we have very much potential. Every game we go out there we know that we can win,” said sophomore goalkeeper Ann Gleason. “Especially if we think a team doesn’t respect us, we’re going to prove it to them and make sure that they leave the field knowing that they shouldn’t overlook us.”

Senior forward Erin Witte said the team has been preparing for Oklahoma State by working on being aggressive and winning what Hornbacher calls “50-50 balls,” or loose balls.

“I think we’re doing really well with being aggressive right now. That’s one of the big things we’ve been working on because we know that Oklahoma State is a very aggressive team and we’re just working on that so we’ll be ready for Friday night,” Witte said. “Being the underdog is always an advantage for teams because opponents underestimate you. We’re hoping to come out and hopefully catch them on their heels and get a win.”

Upcoming Games

What: Iowa State (4-1-2) vs. No. 16 Oklahoma State (6-1-1)

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: ISU Soccer Complex

The series: Iowa State leads 5-4-2. The last time Oklahoma State beat the Cyclones in Ames was 1996.

What: Iowa State (4-1-2) vs. Oklahoma (4-2-2)

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: ISU Soccer Complex

The series: Iowa State leads 7-2-2. The Cyclones have never lost at home against the Sooners, boasting a 5-0-1 overall record at the ISU Soccer Complex.