Soccer season will face better competition

Mark Pawlak

A new look is giving reason for change in the fortunes of the ISU women’s soccer team this season.

In head coach Stephanie Gabbert’s first season at the helm, the 2000 Cyclones finished 7-10-2 overall and were ninth in the Big 12 at 3-6-1.

A new playing system will look to bring more offense to the Iowa State attack this fall as the Cyclones are adding another forward to their formation.

“We are playing a much more attacking style,” Gabbert said. “We have a lot more attacking players and faster players, so we’re trying to get more people forward.”

Last season saw the Cyclones struggle to convert scoring opportunities in the box as they found the net only 22 times in 19 games.

Scoring is something Iowa State is looking to improve on.

“I think scoring is always your biggest concern. We certainly are going to need to create more chances than we created last year,” Gabbert said. “As a group, in terms of the players we have playing in the attack, I think we are better finishers than we were last year. Even if we have the same amount of chances as we did last year, I think we’ll score more goals.”

Gabbert’s recruiting class of eight freshmen and the continued improvement of second-team All-Big 12 forward Nicole Wilcox will be key in putting a charge into the Cyclones’ offense.

“Our freshmen, in particular, I think are really going to be able to make an impact,” Gabbert said. “Nicole Wilcox has gotten much better at actually finishing in the box. She missed a lot of chances last year. I think she’s going to have a much more successful season.”

How well the freshmen adjust to the Big 12 will be a factor in Iowa State’s chances.

Nikki Gamble, Kelly Burke and Laura Schweer are three newcomers that will be in the mix at the midfield position and will be key performers Gabbert noted.

The Cyclone backline will be strong this year. Returning starters Tiffany Belz and Lauren Sims will anchor the defense and will be helped by the return of Lindsey Lees, who missed all but two minutes of last season with an injury.

Gabbert is counting on those three to bring a lot of leadership to the squad.

The starting goalkeeper has not yet been determined. Freshmen Karen Hasselman and last year’s starter, sophomore Beth Chapman, will split games until one distances themselves from the other.

Missing the Big 12 Tournament was disappointing last year, but Gabbert thinks her squad will be talented enough to qualify this season.

However, nothing will be easy in the Big 12 as three conference schools are ranked in the NSCAA/Adidas Top 25 preseason poll. Conference favorite Nebraska is ranked fifth nationally.

“I think every team in the Big 12 got better over the summer, in terms of their recruiting classes,” Gabbert said. “There’s not going to be any easy options out there for us. Every game is going to be pretty hard.”

The non-conference schedule will also be tougher this season for Iowa State.

“We did that purposely to get us better prepared for the Big 12 conference season. I think after four or five games of us playing together, we’re going to get an idea of where we stand as a team,” Gabbert said.

Gabbert is hoping hard work will lead the Cyclones to a winning season.

“One of our goals is to outwork every team we play. It’s a goal of ours every year,” Gabbert said.

“If we can outwork every team on our schedule, we’ll win at least half our games. We’re not real caught up on our wins and losses and who we’re going to beat, but I’ll be disappointed if we didn’t do better than last year.”

Iowa State will kick the season off by hosting Illinois Friday at 4 p.m. and Northern Iowa Sunday at 1 p.m.