Iowa soccer defeats Wisconsin 1-0 to win Big Ten Tournament title
Iowa continues incredible surge after finishing regular-season 2-8-1
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – On March 18, the Iowa soccer team lost 2-1 at Rutgers and fell to 0-6-1 in what was turning into a disastrous season.
But there was a moral victory to this loss in that Iowa finally had scored its first goal of the season. It just took seven matches to do it.
The Hawkeyes would go on to finish 2-8-1 in the regular season, and the only reason they made the Big Ten Tournament is because every team was allowed to participate in a season in which the global pandemic has temporarily changed the format, and the rules for qualifying.
Records can be deceiving, however, and that certainly was the case for Iowa, which on Sunday, capped an incredible turnaround by defeating Wisconsin 1-0 in the championship match of the Big Ten Tournament in University Park, Pa.
It is Iowa’s first Big Ten Tournament title, and with it comes an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re headed to the NCAA Tournament, I’m incredibly proud,” Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said on the Big Ten Network, which televised Sunday’s title match. “This group has been so committed the entire year. We got a bit of a chip on our shoulder to play hard, and it’s more internal than anything else. No one has disrespected us.
“But we just weren’t pleased with how we started the year off, and we’ve got a lot of things to work on. But this group fights.”
Iowa (6-8-1) had advanced to the title game by defeating Big Ten regular-season champion Penn State 1-0 in the semifinals. The victory also came on Penn State’s home field.
In Sunday’s title match, junior Jenny Cape, a Wisconsin native, scored the only goal on a kick in the second half in which she blasted the ball past Wisconsin star goalie Jordyn Bloomer, who was named the Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year in each of the past two seasons.
— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) April 18, 2021
Freshman Meike Ingles helped to set up Cape’s goal with an assist.
It was just the second goal in Cape’s Hawkeye career.
“So once she laid it out in front of me I saw a bit of open space in front of me and I just put it all behind it, and hopefully, it went in,” Cape said.
The coaches and players all deserve credit for staying the course, for staying unified and for staying confident because it couldn’t have been easy, given how much Iowa struggled early in the season just to score a goal.
“Obviously, the season didn’t start as we hoped it would, but our coaches kept emphasizing stay bonded, stay bonded, and it will turn our way,” Cape said.
It took four victories for Iowa to win the Big Ten Tournament title, and with each win along the way, the players grew more confident.
“After the tournament started things started going our way.” Cape said. “We started getting rewarded for the work that we put in. One (win) led to two. Two wins led to three.
“And we knew Wisconsin would put in a good fight and they were a great matchup. We kept fighting and things have kept going our way, and we’re just kind of riding the momentum out.”
While many factors have helped to lead the turnaround, the performance of freshman goalkeeper Macy Enneking has been crucial to Iowa’s success.
Enneking, who was inserted in the lineup midway through the regular season, only allowed one goal in the four Big Ten Tournament games, while collecting 23 saves.
“We couldn’t defend anybody in the first six games,” DiIanni said. “The goals we were giving up were a bit embarrassing actually. And that’s our kids’ words.
“We just got much better. We committed the energy and effort needed to be successful at this level. And we’ve gotten better defensively, and obviously, Macy Enneking has been a huge part to that. And we’ve been able to find some timely goals.”
The lesson from this Iowa team is to never give up. The players could’ve easily started pointing fingers or making excuses, but they didn’t.
They stayed focused on the daily task of getting better and just kept grinding and competing.
And now they’ve been rewarded in a huge way.