Unbeaten Iowa State aims to stay on top after in-state showdowns

Elliott Fifer

It’s rivalry weekend for the ISU soccer team, and the Cyclones aren’t taking it lightly.

With a game against Northern Iowa on Friday and a trip to Iowa City to take on Iowa on Sunday, coach Rebecca Hornbacher said it will be a challenging weekend for her team on multiple levels.

“It’s the first weekend [of playing two games] for us this year,” she said. “We have to take one game at a time. With two games in one weekend, you know you’re playing two games so close, but you have to focus on one before you can move on to the next.

“Obviously we’re only focused on Northern Iowa right now. That’s the first game in front of us, so that’s what we have to be focused on. We definitely need to make sure we pay attention to Northern Iowa before we move on to Iowa.”

Hornbacher also indicated that, after losing a 1-0 overtime game to Iowa last season, combined with the pressure added by the Cy-Hawk series, her team has a chip on its shoulder.

“We lost to [Iowa] last year on our home turf, so it’s definitely always a battle. We take pride in the in-state rivalry and we get points for the Cy-Hawk series, so the girls are very motivated.”

Senior forward Erin Witte agreed that the team wants to beat Iowa and help Iowa State in the Cy-Hawk series.

“Of course we’re rivals, so we definitely want to win. Especially since we lost against Iowa last year, we have a lot of fire that we want to go into that game with,” Witte said.

Iowa (0-0-2) opened its regular season with double-overtime draws against both Navy and Northern Illinois last weekend.

Iowa State currently holds a 2-0 lead in the 2007-08 Cy-Hawk series, due to a win by the men’s golf team Tuesday in the Big Four Championship in Cedar Rapids. Sunday’s soccer match in Iowa City is also worth two points.

First things first, Iowa State (1-0) will try to improve its record Friday by hosting the Panthers (0-1-1) at 7 p.m. at the ISU Soccer Complex. Last season, the Cyclones defeated Northern Iowa 2-1 in the Diadora Classic in Omaha, Neb. Iowa State is 3-0 all-time against Northern Iowa.

Despite recent success against the Panthers, goalkeeper Ann Gleason labeled Northern Iowa as a team that plays hard and never lets up.

“Northern Iowa are always really hard workers, so it’s going to be a game where they’re definitely going to come out and battle. It should be a really good game,” Gleason said.

Hornbacher also described Northern Iowa as an opponent that will put up a fight.

“They’re a very scrappy team and they battle it out. They’ve played in some competitive matches this fall so far, so we need to be ready for them and make sure that we continue playing well and working on the things we have in training,” Hornbacher said.

Offensively, the Cyclones were sharp in their season opener, outshooting Oakland 18-4 on their way to a 2-1 victory. Netting only two goals on 18 shots, however, is something Hornbacher hopes will improve this weekend. In practice this week, she stressed the importance of getting shots on net and good services into the box.

“We created a lot of scoring opportunities [against Oakland], but we need to cash in on those opportunities and put them on frame instead of having a shot that’s going over the post, or earning free kicks but then not getting in services,” Hornbacher said. “We’ve worked on our services and putting things on frame to make the goalkeeper have to make a save. If they do make a save, then we follow up and try to put it in the back of net.”

Witte, who scored both Cyclone goals against Oakland, including her third career game-winner, agreed that the offense needs to be more efficient with their scoring opportunities.

“We did look at shots [in practice]. You can have 20 shots and no goals, so that’s why we’re working on it in practice,” Witte said. “We’re just hoping we can put more away this weekend.”