Women's soccer makes history
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Ron Rainey has surpassed numerous milestones and recorded dozens of school records in his eight seasons as head coach of the University of Iowa women’s soccer team. But a five-second moment on Monday afternoon might be the most impressive achievement of them all.
The Hawkeye women’s soccer team was announced as an at-large selection for the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Monday, Nov. 11, marking the first time in school history that Iowa will compete in the national tournament. Iowa was revealed as one of 64 teams in the field during an online selection show.
“This is an awesome opportunity for our program,” Rainey said just minutes after seeing his teams’ name appear on the screen. “To do this for the first time in the history of the program, I’m just really happy for our players.”
Rainey took over a struggling Iowa soccer program eight years ago and has turned the Hawkeyes into a Big Ten championship contender. The Hawkeyes were coming off a 3-12-4 overall record, including a 1-7-2 mark in the Big Ten, when Rainey was hired as the fourth head coach in school history.
The program began taking shape under Rainey and the results eventually came. This year’s team defeated nationally ranked Penn State for the first time in school history, knocked off No. 7 Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, defeated the Nittany Lions for a second time in the semifinals, and finished runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament.
Senior Ashley Catrell anxiously watches the NCAA Tournament selection show. The Hawkeyes will compete on Friday, Nov. 15 at Notre Dame. Photo by Bill Adams.
“Coming here eight years ago, we knew the potential that Iowa had as a program,” Rainey said. “To see some of that fulfilled and being in the NCAA Tournament is great and it’s something we will always cherish.” Turning around a struggling program has been a process for Rainey. His patience was rewarded with achieving an ultimate goal - qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.
Iowa’s first-ever NCAA Tournament match will take place on Friday, Nov. 15, in South Bend, Ind., against Notre Dame, a program considered one of the elite in NCAA women’s soccer. The Fighting Irish have won three NCAA championships (most recently in 2010) and are currently ranked 16th in the country.
“Notre Dame is one of five or six teams that judge its seasons on championships,” Rainey said. “We want to go out and work as hard as we can and watch a lot of film to get our players a good game plan.”
Rainey, always quick to shift into game planning mode, was able to reflect on the magnitude of a brief five seconds when I-O-W-A appeared inside the NCAA Tournament bracket.
“To be the first women’s soccer team to represent the university in the NCAA Tournament is special,” Rainey said.
It’s a deserving achievement for a special head coach.