After a winless 2019 conference campaign, the Iowa State soccer team started the 2020 season with a loss Sept. 11 to the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Usually, teams will have exhibitions or nonconference games to get their feet wet before diving into conference play, but in 2020, the schedule is just nine conference games.
This could be a cause for concern.
But Head Coach Matt Fannon said this is no time to panic.
“We knew it was going to take time to get the results we want,” Fannon said. “One of the big things about our system is that we just need to tweak, not entirely change, a few things based on each opponent.”
In the 0-2 loss to West Virginia, the possession time and shot disparity finished about even. A huge differential came in the foul category.
In the first half, the Cyclones fouled the Mountaineers 10 times. By the final horn, it was 15-7, Iowa State.
But Courtney Powell, a senior forward and Iowa State’s leading scorer last year, said although fouls are a big shift in the game’s momentum, the team just didn’t execute.
“I thought compared to last year it was much better in terms of ball movement and possession, we just didn’t finish our chances,” Powell said. “We just need to get out of the old mindset of playing slow and defensive.”
This week, Fannon said it won’t get much easier for the Cyclones.
Iowa State will be traveling to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to face the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, a team who finished atop the Big 12 last year with a record of 7-1-1.
The Cowgirls play a style that takes advantage of the unoccupied space. This gives them time on the ball since they aren’t under pressure.
Fannon said when they find those spaces, it’s a quick release to players to score.
“We don’t expect our midfielders to be able to play different parts of the field since they [Oklahoma State] don’t play as much of an attacking style,” Fannon said.
Oklahoma State shut out the Kansas State Wildcats 3-0 last week, showing they may be ready to defend the throne.
The win marked the ninth consecutive regular season league match the Cowgirls have either won outright or tied. Oklahoma State is 8-0-1 during that streak, which began Sept. 29, 2019.
Oklahoma State Head Coach Colin Carmichael is in his 16th year with the team, including two Elite Eight runs and seven conference championships.
But Kassi Ginther, a senior forward for Iowa State, said despite the Cowgirls’ resume, the Cyclones will compete if they can score in the final third of the field.
“We’ve been working on our creative movement more up top and getting out scorers and midfielders to work together more to score more goals,” Ginther said.
Iowa State scored 11 goals in 18 games last year, meaning they scored less than one a game.
Under Fannon’s new system, that number is expected to increase. But the team believes that will only happen if they buy into what he is teaching.
“I think we could’ve attacked more and we fell back into our way of being more defensive,” Ginther said.
A major part of Fannon’s scheme is the women stick to their specific roles and play collectively.
If one part is off, it could change the whole team’s rhythm. But he knows the challenges that come with that mindset.
“Everything is never going to go exactly as planned,” Fannon said. “That’s life though, all you can do is stay in the moment and believe in your preparation to get the job done.”
Iowa State will take the field at 7 p.m. Friday to face Oklahoma State.
The game will be broadcasted on ESPN+ and Big 12 Now, the conference’s exclusive streaming website.
“Two years ago, we went to Stillwater and got the win, so I don’t see why we can’t go ahead and do the same thing this week,” Powell said.