Dillinger Looks Back on Spring; Ahead to Fall Soccer
AMES, Iowa - The Iowa State soccer team will open its new stadium this fall, but preparation for the upcoming campaign started with the freshly completed spring season that head coach Wendy Dillinger described as a great learning experience for the Cyclones.
Dillinger believed the spring was a prime opportunity to
experiment with new formations and for players who did not see vast quantities
of the minutes during the fall to receive needed competitive experience.
"We got a lot of players time who did not get much during the fall, and we saw a lot of different combinations," Dillinger said. "There is more depth than in past years, but we also had a big roster this spring with 23 or 24 on the squad. It gave us an opportunity to play different combinations depending on who was out on the field. We saw some really good things out of quite a few people."
The Cyclones flew out the gates during the spring with a 4-1 win at Missouri. Dillinger attributed the hard work the players had done with the strength and conditioning staff at Iowa State prior to the season starting with having a great impact on the early success.
"We started out really strong," Dillinger said. "The first game against Missouri we went there after a week of practice and won 4-1. They were fit, and they worked really hard four days a week for six weeks working on not just their strength but the conditioning aspect as well. We did not have to spend much time getting them fit again, because the strength staff did a great job with that."
In addition to allowing players to receive more playing experience and tinkering with lineups, Dillinger stressed the importance of giving players an opportunity to experiment with new positions. A specific example of a Cyclone willingly looking at a new position was Theresa Kucera.
"We moved Theresa Kucera to the back," Dillinger said. "She has always been an attack-minded player, but she has all the physical tools to play in the back. She has good feet and makes good choices on the ball and does a good job distributing the ball. It was an interesting transition, because in theory it sounded good, and she has embraced it. She trained with Mary Kate McLaughin, who has been training with us this spring, and has learned the position. We thought she did well, and we are happy with how quickly she picked up the position."
A battle that will only intensify is who will earn the starting goalkeeping spot for the fall. The Cyclones return Maddie Jobe who has already produced record-breaking performances in goal in her short career and Andrea Swanson who cracked the starting 11 on eight occasions as a freshman.
"I think Maddie Jobe was very good this spring," Dillinger said. "I think some of the inconsistencies that we had seen in her from the last two seasons are gone. She has good focus and determination. She is making saves that she would make sporadically. Andrea (Swanson) is pushing her. Andrea is not going to make it easy on her. I think Maddie notices that she is one of the top keepers in the conference, and that if she puts the work in she will get the recognition for it."
The mission for the Cyclones prior to the start of fall pre-season training is to continue to improve on the strides the team made in the spring. Dillinger expects the team's fitness level to only get better, and she is looking forward to the Cyclones being fully ready by the time the first practice starts.
"The fitness level of the team has gotten better and, individually, we feel some pushed themselves beyond where they thought we could be," Dillinger said. The fitness testing showed some great strides, even from the beginning of the spring. They need to continue that, and make sure they do not drop off over the next three months. We had very few injuries this spring. The fitter and stronger you are, the less likely it is that you will get injured. The big thing is that when they are fit, you do not have to focus on the fitness aspect and you can put more attention to how the team plays. You do not have to run in addition to playing. If you are not fit, we can't compete at the level we want to compete at."
The excitement level heading into the fall is far more than because Iowa State will have a new place to call home. The team returns a large portion of its roster from 2011 and with the tinkering of the formation and players' positions that took place in the spring, the Cyclones seem poised to have a breakout campaign in 2012.