Another strong season expected for Big Ten women’s soccer 1

The Big Ten historically is one of the best conferences in women’s soccer. In the past 25 years, at least five current Big Ten schools have made the NCAA Tournament in every season but one.

This past season, Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Rutgers made the NCAA Tournament, with the first three listed reaching round 16. The season marked the most teams making that round of the tournament from the Big Ten since 2015.

As Iowa head coach Dave DiIanni said last season, the Big Ten is competitive team one through 14, so any team in the conference can beat another on any day. Here’s where each team stands heading into the 2020 season.

Iowa

Under the leadership of 13 seniors, the Hawkeyes made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 last season. They closed out the season 15-5-1 (7-3-1 in the Big Ten).

Obviously, there will be a lot of changes. The Hawkeyes lost their top scorers in Devin Burns and Natalie Winters, plus their starting goalkeeper, Claire Graves.

However, the Hawkeyes have two great forwards returning. Sophomore Gianna Gourley and junior Samantha Tawharu each had five goals last season. The defense is returning three out of its four starters from last season, which has typically been a strong point of the program.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini finished last season 9-8-1 (3-7-1 Big Ten) and failed to make the Big Ten Tournament.

Three players scored a team-leading six goals last season, which helped it be one of the best offensive teams in the Big Ten. Two of them, senior Hope Breslin and junior Makena Silber, are returning, so expect the offense to be strong again. There will be a new goalkeeper on the team since Jaelyn Cunningham graduated.

Indiana

After having an inconsistent regular season, Indiana made the Big Ten Tournament but lost to Rutgers in the first game, finishing its season 8-9-2 (4-5-2 Big Ten).

There’s reason to believe the Hoosiers will improve off that record, as their top scorer from last season, sophomore Avery Lockwood, is returning along with their starting goalkeeper, senior Bethany Kopel.

Maryland

Like the Hoosiers, the Terrapins had an inconsistent season and finished their season in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. They ended the season 9-8-2 (5-5-1 Big Ten).

One of the top scorers in the Big Ten will return next season for the Terrapins in Alyssa Poarch, a junior who had eight goals. The Terrapins will work on their defense next season after allowing 1.65 goals per game last season.

Michigan

The Wolverines had one of their best seasons in recent memory, making the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 with a 17-6-1 record (8-2-1 Big Ten).

Junior Meredith Haakenson scored a team-leading nine goals in an offense that averaged almost two goals per game last season. They will also return their goalie, senior Hillary Beall, who gave up on an average of over one goal per game last season.

Michigan State

One of the six teams that didn’t make the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans finished last season 8-10-1 (1-9-1 Big Ten).

Gia Wahlberg, a junior, had nine goals last season, and sophomore Paige Webber had six. Their main goalkeeper is sophomore Lauren Kozal, which should help them considering they lost a lot of close games last season.

Minnesota

It was not the Golden Gophers’ year last season. The team finished 3-12-4 (2-7-2 Big Ten).

No player scored more than two goals, and then-junior defender Athena Kuehn led the team with five points.

Fortunately for the Gophers, Kuehn will be returning along with last season’s starting goalkeeper, senior Maddie Nielsen, who should provide optimism for the program.

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers struggled last season, going 4-10-4 (3-6-2 Big Ten) and missing out on the Big Ten Tournament.

Their leading scorer, Meg Brandt, graduated, as well as their starting goalkeeper, Aubrie Corder.

Fortunately, they have their second in points leader returning, junior Dakota Chan, and veteran head coach John Walker, who should know how to improve his team after over 25 seasons on the job.

RELATED: Lineup preview: Iowa soccer

Northwestern

The Wildcats didn’t make the Big Ten Tournament last season after finishing 5-10-3 (3-6-2 Big Ten).

All three of their top points leaders will be back next season. They are senior Regan Steigleder and sophomores Aurea Martin and Danika Austin.

Their starting goalkeeper, junior Mackenzie Wood, will also be back.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes also missed the Big Ten Tournament last season. They finished 4-10-4 (2-6-3 Big Ten).

Kayla Fischer, who led the team with 14 points, is returning as a junior. Their top goalkeeper, Jordan Silkowitz, transferred to Iowa State after the season, so senior Bailey Kolinsky will probably be the starter at that position.

Penn State

One of the best teams in the conference last season, the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Tournament and lost to Stanford in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. They finished 17-7-1 (8-3 Big Ten).

Redshirt sophomore Ally Schlegel led the conference with 33 points, and senior Sam Coffey was second with 32. With both back, the Nittany Lions should be one of the top teams in the conference once again.

The Nittany Lions will have to shake it up at goalkeeper since their starter, Amanda Dennis, graduated.

Purdue

The last team in the Big Ten Tournament, Purdue beat Wisconsin in the first round before falling to Penn State in the semifinals, ending its season. The Boilermakers finished 8-9-3 (3-6-2 Big Ten).

Two of its three leading players in points will be returning, including senior Hannah Melchiorre, who led the team in goals with four. Their starting goalkeeper will also be back in junior Marisa Bova.

Rutgers

Though they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season, the Scarlet Knights had a nice season, finishing 15-4-2 (8-2-1 Big Ten).

They had two players earn over 20 points last season, Nneka Moneme and Amirah Ali who are returning as seniors. Like the Boilermakers, their starting goalkeeper is coming back — junior Meagan McClelland.

Wisconsin

An elite program in the conference, the Badgers made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to UCLA. They finished 16-4-2 (9-0-1 Big Ten).

They will be without Dani Rhodes, who had 30 points last season. However, they will be with their starting goalkeeper, Jordyn Bloomer, a senior, in what should be another great season for the program.

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