Cyclones In The Midst Of Impressive Preseason
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State head soccer coach Wendy Dillinger has had nearly two weeks of preseason camp to see her 2012 Cyclones in action, and to say she has been impressed would be an understatement.
Dillinger not only is impressed with the play on the field, she has data illustrating the Cyclones are more ready than they have ever been in her five-year tenure. As in previous years, Dillinger stressed to her team the importance of staying fit in the off-season, and the Cyclones responded with record-setting conditioning tests on the first day of camp.
"Preseason got off to a great start," Dillinger said. "We had the best fitness testing results yet and that helps us focus on the soccer and not getting fit. We are seeing fewer injuries and then when we do have a muscle tweak or an ankle tweak they are out a day as opposed to being out a week. The overall conditioning of our players has made a tremendous difference for us during the preseason period."
Dillinger's squad enters this season experienced, as the Cyclones have nine starters returning. The chemistry of the team has already been apparent.
"The dynamic movement of the ball and the chemistry that is in place with the core players that are returning is pretty special," Dillinger said. "We have a few newcomers that are definitely making an impact which is exciting to strengthen the group that we do have back. I believe what we do have returning is exceptional."
While the Cyclones have an experienced returning unit, an area the team needed to address was replacing three-time team Defensive MVP Mark Kate McLaughlin. Dillinger believes she found a more-than-adequate solution in Theresa Kucera. The Omaha, Neb., native has made a seamless transition from striker to central defender.
"Last spring we were trying to figure out what we were going to do to replace Mary Kate, and Theresa was somewhat of a natural fit because of her size and strength," Dillinger said. "She is very composed on the ball, has great vision and distribution. We weren't sure how she was going to take it, but she was very receptive and open. She took off running with it. She is a driven competitor, and she is definitely shoring up the center back position."
Playing right behind the central defenders will be the winner of a hotly contested goalkeeping battle between junior Maddie Jobe and sophomore Andrea Swanson. Dillinger said the duo has been fantastic supporting one another all year.
"The two of them are competitive, yet they are very supportive of one another," Dillinger said. "We definitely look at it as a goalkeeping corps. It is more of a position than a person. I am very comfortable with both Maddie and Andrea. They are both doing really well and are more focused now than they have ever been."
Iowa State returns all but one of its goal scorers from a year ago, and Dillinger believes that comradery going forward will be invaluable.
"Our front four has looked incredibly dangerous so far," Dillinger said. "The way they are playing right now is they are interchanging in an organized chaotic way. We are creating a lot of different looks from a lot of different people in the attacking third of the field. Additionally, we are pushing our outside backs to become more involved in the attack and they have done tremendous. When you add all that in with our height on set pieces, we will have a lot of ways to score goals this year."
While it appears the Cyclones are full of experience, one area that has a fresh look is Dillinger's coaching staff. Assistant coaches Tony Minatta and Jason Wichman joined Dillinger in the off-season and have made an immediate impact.
"The chemistry of our staff has been incredible and it is spilling into the team," Dillinger said. "I am very happy to have Tony and Jason on board. The team has taken to them very well and both have brought a lot to our team."
Iowa State will see its first regular-season action in one week with a trip to Omaha to face Creighton.