CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- With 8 seniors moving on to complete their degrees, the UNI soccer team had many roles to fill this Spring. After some intense weeks of conditioning and indoor soccer, the Panthers started competition at the University of Minnesota’s Gopher 7’s tournament. With the squad split into two teams both squads scored plenty of goals in their five group games, but also conceded some important goals at crucial times. Disappointingly neither team advanced to the semifinals and returned home earlier than expected.
After Spring Break the Panthers played host to Minnesota State and Winona State with back to back games. With unusually warm early Spring conditions, UNI got off to a sluggish start with their first outdoor games of the season. A 3-1 loss to Minnesota State was followed by a 3-0 loss to Winona State and there could be few complaints as both opponents played very well and appeared to be further ahead in their preparations than the Panthers. Junior Melissa Hagan scored the lone goal for UNI on the day, and more questions were asked than answers found.
The following weekend saw the Panthers head to Ames, Iowa for their annual Spring games versus Drake and Iowa State. Facing the in-form Cyclones in the first game UNI got off to a fantastic start with a goal from freshman Charlotte Jones within the first minute of play. Although Iowa State equalized half way through the first period, UNI held off the Cyclones with some combative midfield play, resolute defending, and some excellent saves from sophomore goalkeeper Erin Zaideman. The game finished with a 1-1 tie. In the second game conference-rival Drake scored two goals without reply as the Panthers finished the day looking tired after the first games’ effort. There was strong play throughout the day from sophomores Allie Brees and Sam Copley while Charlotte Jones gave the Panthers some much needed encouragement.
After practicing extensively outside on the technical and tactical aspects of the game, UNI faced Upper Iowa in its annual Gold Cup games. Using a European Champions League format the two teams would play each other home and away, and add the scores together to determine the winner. The first leg was hosted by the Peacocks at their beautiful facility, and the Panthers would find themselves up 1-0 early through Allie Brees’ curling effort. Upper Iowa responded with a fine strike from distance. In the second half two goals from freshman Liz Frerichs seemed to give the Panthers a good cushion, but again the Peacocks countered with a goal. Junior Ashley Capone completed the scoring on the day a with a tremendous shot from 30 yards that left the goalkeeper with no chance, and the Panthers would take a 4-2 lead into the return home leg. At home the Panthers knew a quick start would give them an edge and Ashley Capone continued where she left off with a goal just 50 seconds into the game off a cross from freshman Caitlyn Fuller. With possession mainly in UNI’s favor the Panthers finally scored a second through Melissa Hagan to regain the Gold Cup and finish the 2012 Spring on a positive note.