Conference play is starting for Iowa State soccer, and there is nothing the team wants more than a clean slate.
The Cyclones travel to Texas this weekend to take on Texas Christian University at 6 p.m. on Friday, and Texas Tech at 12 p.m. on Sunday.
“There’s no easy Big 12 game,” said coach Tony Minatta when asked about the opponents this weekend.
Texas Christian is sporting a record of 7-1-1 going into the showdown with the Cyclones. They are also coming off a game against Butler that they won 6-1, thanks to senior midfielder Kayla Hill, who scored three goals.
Texas Tech has been arguably better than their Fort Worth counterpart. The Red Raiders have an 8-1 record, and they have had quite a few convincing wins so far in non-conference play.
Iowa State is 2-7-1, and they will be the underdogs in these two games. Redshirt sophomore defender Marin Daniel had some thoughts on the upcoming opponents.
“They’re [going to] be strong, they’re [going to] be physical,” Daniel said. “It’s kind of fun to be the underdogs.”
Daniel and Cyclones will be getting redshirt junior midfielder Kasey Opfer back after she missed a week, but junior midfielder Hannah Cade went down with a foot injury that could sideline her for the season.
This is a big blow for the Cyclones, who have been playing shorthanded all year with the early loss of captain Riley Behan. Now they’ve lost one of their best players at least until the Big 12 tournament.
The silver lining here is that Minatta gets to see which young Cyclones can step up since one of their stars is out for so long.
“She brought a lot to the game,” Minatta said about Cade. There is no replacing a player like her.”
Minatta also spoke on the reports his team is switching to a new formation. According to Minatta, they are looking to make their formation more basic and defensive-minded. He’ll have more defining roles for players, and he cites the younger players as a reason to switch the complexity.
With so many young players coming up to fill the injury voids and help out where they can, it could be a smart strategy to help them transition smoothly before expecting them to do more than they are capable of this early in their career.
To some, this could be looked at as a step backwards, but this is not just to ease in underclassmen. Sometimes a complex system can get confusing, especially in a soccer match where there is constant play and no stoppages. Less confusion could really help the team, especially as they shift into conference play against stronger opponents.
“There’s a giant senior class right now that’s just willing to lead us,” said senior midfielder and captain Emily Steil, who has stepped up and become one of the team's leaders.
The Cyclones have a lot of upperclassmen — whether they are on the sidelines with injury or on the field — and they know how to deal with all the stress that comes with conference play, along with all the challenges of a new formation. This team will need to be led by these players as they face an uphill battle the rest of the way.
It just might turn their season around.