A dive into the Cyclones’ woes in front of goal


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Forward Klasey Medelberg goes for the ball during the home opener for the Big 12 conference game versus Kansas on Sept. 29. The Iowa State soccer team lost 2-1.

Noah Rohlfing

Nine goals in 12 games. Ninth in the Big 12.

For the Iowa State women’s soccer team, those are just two more frustrating stats that define a season best described by Murphy’s Law:

Everything that can go wrong, has gone wrong.

The Cyclones are struggling to put the ball in the back of the net. At the time of writing, the Cyclones were 289th in the country out of 333 teams in goals per game at 0.75. Iowa State has been held scoreless in six of their 12 outings this season. In 19 games last season, the Cyclones were held scoreless in eight games. 

So what’s gone wrong this season? How is this contributing to Iowa State’s 2-9-1 start? There are three reasonable explanations. 

For one, the Cyclones just don’t shoot a lot in general. They’ve put up 132 shots through 12 games, a rate of 11 per game. That is last in the Big 12 and 232nd in the country.

Part of this is by design, as coach Tony Minatta’s defense-first style is intended to limit the opposition’s chance creation at the expense of some of Iowa State’s attacking freedom.

Last year, the Cyclones’ style worked like a charm, as they were able to convert a high number of the chances they created. This season has been a different story. By only converting nine of their 132 shots, the Cyclones are scoring at a rate of 6.8 percent. 

By comparison, the leading scorer in the Big 12, Oklahoma State, has converted 33 of its 203 shots this season. That converts into a rate of 16.2 percent. The large gulf in goals scored can be explained by the differences in style of play.

Oklahoma State runs a 3-4-3 with three forwards, and the Cowgirls create goals by forcing mistakes from the opposition and creating chances for themselves.

Another explanation for the lack of goals? This year’s injury crisis. 

The topic of injuries has, by now, been seared into the minds of anyone who follows the Cyclones.

Injuries to key players have forced Minatta to switch to a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 hybrid with one true forward in sophomore Klasey Medelberg, as opposed to the 4-4-2 diamond the Cyclones used when fully fit. In that formation, there would effectively be three attackers in two strikers and an attacking midfielder.

The 4-4-2, Minatta pointed out, limits the attacking ability of the team in some ways, with midfielders and wingers sitting deeper.

At times, Medelberg (who has scored a third of the team’s goals) is left isolated when the Cyclones are in defense, as sophomore attacking midfielder Hannah Cade often drops off to press opposing midfielders in defense. 

Minatta admits a lack of continuity has contributed to the team’s stunted attacking output. 

“It’s tough to build from,” Minatta said. “You take away one or two or three [starters], and now you have to try to build that [continuity] in the middle of the season.”

The greater space between midfield and attack means that linkup play can, at times, be nonexistent when Iowa State gets stuck in its own half. One of the ways Iowa State has tried to combat that is long through balls to quicken the transition from defense to attack. 

At times, it can be highly effective. Against Florida, the Cyclones were irresistible for 45 minutes, carving the Gators apart with incisive through balls to freshman forward Courtney Powell and Klasey Medelberg. 

That’s part of the problem, though. They can have stretches of dominance during games, but far too often those stretches are not rewarded with goals. 

That leads into the third possible explanation for this season’s dry spell: rotten luck. 

In many games this year, the Cyclones have had stretches of sustained attacking play. More often than not, though, the goals have just not come their way, whether it has been due to spectacular performances from the opposition goalkeeper or taking on shots from difficult angles. 

The Cyclones have hit the crossbar seven or eight times this season, according to Minatta. Most recently, sophomore defender Merin Mundt hit the post with a corner kick against Kansas.

Junior midfielder Brooke Tasker knows that this year has been one long exercise in bad luck, and the Cyclones are getting frustrated by coming so close but not getting any reward. 

“On paper, it’s not what it is in games,” Tasker said. “That’s kind of the story of our lives right now.

“I don’t think the stats reflect what’s going on for us right now.”

Despite all the near-misses and setbacks that have become the story of the season, Medelberg is optimistic that the Cyclones will find their shooting boots in time to save their season. 

“It is frustrating, but I think it’ll come together,” Medelberg said. “I just keep working hard and keep making chances and in the end it will come.”