The Iowa State women’s soccer team entered the weekend with a daunting task ahead of them — play two National Women’s Soccer League teams in separate 45 minute games, including the current league champion, FC Kansas City.
The Cyclones exited the weekend with loads of confidence after proving that they can compete with the best teams in the country. Iowa State fell to FC Kansas City 1-0 after a back and forth affair and then 3-0 to the Chicago Red Stars in a game that saw the Cyclones come within a few feet of two goals.
Head coach Tony Minatta wasn’t the only one to take notice of what the Cyclones are capable of.
“We played against the best players in the country in both of those games,” Minatta said. “To have the opposing coach from the Chicago Red Stars say that we were really tough to break down should show our players exactly what they are capable of doing when they put their minds to it. When we play hard and play the way that we are capable of, we can compete with anybody.”
Iowa State’s first game against FC Kansas City was tight for the entire 45-minute half. The Cyclones held the Blues scoreless for 40 minutes before a FCKC midfielder was able to fire a shot just past the outstretched fingertips of goalkeeper Lindsey Hendon. While other teams were allowing goal after goal, the Cyclones held strong. Iowa State was the only collegiate team this spring to not surrender multiple goals to the defending NWSL champion FCKC Blues.
Sophomore All-Big 12 forward Koree Willer took notice on how well the defense played.
“I was really proud of our defense honestly,” Willer said. “They rarely broke us down in the run of play. I was really happy with how organized they were.”
Fellow sophomore, and key leader of the Cyclone defense as a returning two-year starter, Madi Ott concurred. The Cyclones came to play.
“I think it was a whole team effort,” Ott said. “It started from the forwards went through the midfield and came to defense. I think top to bottom we were solid defensively and that’s something we can be proud of.”
After a short break, the Cyclones took on their second NWSL team of the day, the Chicago Red Stars. While the Cyclones fell 3-0, the final score doesn’t tell the entire story. Twice Iowa State was able to break the Red Stars down and get great looks at goal from Willer and freshman forward Maribell Morales. On the defensive side, freshman goalkeeper Lindsey Hendon showed off on a few plays, making leaping stops on would-be goals.
With the Cyclones holding their own against two professional squads, the team realizes how important it is to grab the opportunity and run with it heading into the remaining spring games and regular season.
“Now that we know we can play at that level, it’s a good feeling to have, but it really only matters if we carry that forward and continue building off that confidence and playing at that same level at every single game,” Ott said.
After the games the Cyclones had the opportunity to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team rout New Zealand 4-0 in front of 35,817 fans, the largest crowd for a women’s soccer game in the U.S. since 1999, in Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. The team got to watch some of the best players in the world up close and personal with seats just behind the goal. The first goal scored by Meghan Klingenberg was buried into the back of the net just a couple rows in front of where the team was seated.
“I thought it was unreal,” Ott said. “it was just so cool to see the players that we follow on Instagram and Twitter that we’ve have looked up to our whole lives and to see them out on the field. Even for me just to see such a positive amazing atmosphere around women’s soccer, that’s a rare thing to experience. There were times I would get chills during the game.”
The Cyclones are back on the road this weekend scheduled to play Creighton at 11:45 a.m. CT and Nebraska-Omaha at 1:30 p.m. CT in Omaha, Nebraska.